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OU 166970 



The Sociology of Georg Simmel 

The Sociology of 
Georg Simmel 


KurtH. Wolff 

The Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois 

Copyright 1950 by The Free Press. All rights in this book are reserved 
and no part thereof may be reprinted without permission from the 
copyright owners, except small portions used in connection with a 
review or notice of the book in a magazine or newspaper. The Sociol- 
ogy OF Georg Simmel has been set in Bodoni and Baskerville types, 
printed on Antique Wove paper supplied for this book by the Per- 
kins and Squier Company. Composition, printing, and binding by 
Knickerbocker Printing Corp., New York. Manufactured in the 
United States of America. 






To Professor Virgil G. Hinshaw, Jr., for closely reading the 
entire manuscript, for numerous clarifications and improve- 
ments of the text, and for philosophical discussions that have 
left their impact upon the Introduction; 

To Professor Arthur Salz for over-all help on text and In- 
troduction, and for biographical and bibliographical infor- 

To Dr. Else Simmel for biographical and bibliographical 
information, and for permission to translate and publish a 
letter from Georg Simmel; 

To Professor Albert Salomon for orientation and advice 
concerning many matters, including selections; 

To Prbfessors Everett C. Hughes and Talcott Parsons for 
general consultation; 

To Professor Meno Lovenstein for suggestions regarding 
the organization and wording of the Introduction; 

To Professors John Dewey and Arthur Child for biblio 
graphical additions; 

To Professors H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills for permis- 
sion to use their translation of Simmel’s Die Grossstddte und 
das Geistesleben; 

To my wife for unfailing help, secretarial and otherwise. 

—Kurt H. Wolff 



Introduction xvii 

1. Fragments of SimmeFs Life and Mind xviii 

2. Simmel in America xxiv 

3. The Translations xxv 

4. SimmeFs “Field of Sociology’' xxvii 

(a) “society” and “individual” xxviii 

(b) sociology xxxi 


(d) “general” SOCIOLOGY xxxii 

(e) “formal” SOCIOLOGY xxxiv 

(f) “philosophical” SOCIOLOGY xxxiv 


(h) SIMMEL’s problems XXXV 

(l) THE “socialization OF THE SPIRIT*’ VS. SOCIOLOGY 


(j) “general” vs. “formal” SOCIOLOGY xxxvii 

(k) the “societal forms” xxxviii 

(l) the relation of SIMMEL’s PHILOSOPHICAL TO HIS 


5. The Methodological and Philosophical Importance of- 

SimmeFs Sociology xl 

Notes xlii 



(b) the bibliography of SIMMEL’s WRITINGS liv 





(g) a note ON the translation Ixiii 


X Contents 

PART one: Fundamental Problems of Sociology (Indi- 
vidual and Society) 

I. The Field of Sociology 3 

1. Society and Knowledge of Society 3 

2. The Abstract Character of Sociology 1 1 

3. Sociology as a Method 13 

4. The Problem Areas of Sociology 16 

(a) the sociological study of historical life (“gen- 
eral SOCIOLOGY**) 16 

(b) the study of societal forms (“pure, or formal, 



OGY**) 23 

II. The Social and the Individual Level (An Example of 
General Sociology) 26 

1. The Determinateness of the Group and the Vacillation 

of the Individual 26 

2. Individual vs. Group Member 28 

3. Esteem of the Old and of the New 29 

4. The Sociological Significance of Individual Similarity 

and Dissimilarity 30 

5. The IndividuaFs Superiority over the Mass 31 

6. The Simplicity and Radicalism of the Mass 34 

7. The Emotionality of the Mass Appeal and of the Mass 34 

8. The Level of Society as the Approximation to the Low- 
est Common Level of Its Members 36 

III. Sociability (An Example of Pure, of Formal, Sociol- 
ogy) 40 

1. Contents (Materials) vs. Forms of Social Life 40 

2. The Autonomization of Contents 41 

3. Sociability as the Autonomous Form, or Play-Form, of 

Sociation 43 

(a) unreality, tact, impersonality 45 

Contents xi 

(b) “sociability thresholds*' 

(c) THE “sociability DRIVE** AND THE DEMOCRATIC NA- 

(d) the artificial world of SOCIABILITY 







IV. Individual and Society in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth- 
Century Views of Life (An Example of Philosophical 

1. Individual Life as the Basis of the Conflict between 
Individual and Society 

2 . Individual Egoism vs. Individual Self-Perfection as an 
Objective Value 

3. The Social vs. the Human 

4. The Eighteenth Century 

(a) the freedom of the individual 

(b) the antinomy between freedom and equality 

(c) “natural man** 

(d) individualism in KANT 

(e) the dual role of “nature** 

(f) kant*s “categorical imperative**: individuality as 
the synthesis of freedom and equality 

5. The Nineteenth Century 

(a) socialism 

(b) the new individualism: the incomparability of 
THE individual 

PART two: Quantitative Aspects of the Group 

I. On THE Significance of Numbers for Social Life 
1. Small Groups 
(a) socialism 

xii Contents 

(b) religious sects 89 


2. Large Groups: The Mass 93 

3. Group Size, Radicalism, and Cohesiveness 94 

4. Paradoxes in Group Structure 96 

5. Numerical Aspects of Prominent Group Members 97 

6. Custom, Law, Morality 99 

II. The Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

AND OF Certain Groups 105 

1. Introduction 105 

2. Numerically Equal Subdivisions 105 

3. The Number as a Symbol of Group Division 107 

4. Group Organization on Numerical Principles and Its 

Effect upon the Individual 109 

5. The Social Gathering (“Party*') 111 

6. The Extended Family 114 

7. Quantity and Quality 115 

III. The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 118 

1. Introduction 118 

2. The Isolated Individual 118 

3. Isolation 119 

4. Freedom 120 

5. The Dyad 122 

6. Characteristics of the Dyad 125 


(b) intimacy 126 

7. Monogamous Marriage 128 

8. Delegation of Duties and Responsibilities to the Group 133 

9. The Expansion of the Dyad 135 

(a) the TRIAD vs. THE DYAD 135 




(d) the formal RADICALISM OF THE MASS I42 

Contents xiii 

IV. The Triad 145 

1. The Sociological Significance of the Third Element 145 

2. The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 145 

3. The Tertius Gaudens 154 

4. Divide et Impera 162 

V. The Importance of Specific Numbers for Relations 

AMONG Groups ' 170 

1. Group Subdivisions 170 

2. The Decimal Principle 171 

3. The Outside Regulation of Groups According to Their 

Maximum and Minimum Sizes 174 

PART three: Superordination and Subordination 

I. Introduction 181 

1. Domination, a Form of Interaction 181 

2. Authority and Prestige 183 

3. Leader and Led 185 

4. Interaction in the Idea of “Law'' 186 

II. Subordination under an Individual 190 

1. Three Kinds of Subordination 190 

2. Kinds of Subordination under an Individual 190 

3. Unification of a Group in Opposition to the Ruler 192 

4. Dissociating Effects of Subordination under an Individ- 
ual 194 

5. The “Higher Tribunal" 195 

6. Domination and Leveling 197 

7. Domination and Downward Gradation 206 

8. Domination and Upward Gradation 209 

9. Mixture of Downward and Upward Gradation 210 

10. Strength and Perseverance of Domination by One 213 

11. Subordination of the Group to a Member or to an Out- 
sider 216 

12. Coordination of Parties in Case of Arbitration 221 

xiv Contents 

III. Subordination under a Plurauty 224 

1. Consequences for the Subordinates of Subordination 

under a Plurality 224 

2. Subordination under a Heterogeneous Plurality 229 

3. Subordination under Mutually Opposed Superordi- 
nates 229 

(a) total subordination 229 

(b) relative subordination 232 

4. Subordination under Stratified Superordinates 234 

(a) coNTAcrr between top and bottom of the stratifi- 
cation system 234 

(b) transmission of pressure 236 

(c) separation between top and bottom of the strat- 
ification system 237 

5. The Phenomenon of Outvoting 239 

IV. Subordination under a Principle 250 

1. Subordination under a Principle vs. a Person 250 

2. Subordination under Objects 253 

3. Conscience 254 

4. Society and “Objectivity*' 256 

5. The Effect of Subordination under a Principle upon 

the Relations between Superordinance and Subordi- 
nates 261 

V. Superordination and Subordination and Degrees of 
Domination and Freedom 268 

1. Superordination without Subordinates 268 

2. Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 273 

3. The Sociological Error of Socialism and Anarchism 282 

4. Super-Subordination without Degradation 283 

5. Coordination and Reciprocal Super-Subordination 286 

6. Super-Subordination as a Form of Social Organization 
and as an Expression of Individual Differences; Person 

vs. Position 291 

7. Aristocracy vs. Equality 295 

8. Coercion 298 

Contents xv 

9. The Inevitably Disproportionate Distribution of Qual- 
ifications and Positions 500 

PART four: The Secret and the Secret Society 

I. Knowledge, Truth, and Falsehood in Human Rela- 
tions 307 

1. Knowledge of One Another 307 

2. Knowledge of External Nature vs. Knowledge of Per- 
sons 309 

3. Truth, Error, and Social Life 310 

4. The Individual as an Object of Knowledge 310 

5. The Nature of the Psychic Process and of Communica- 
tion 311 

6. The Lie 312 

11. Types of Social Relationships by Degrees of Recipro- 
cal Knowledge of Their Participants 317 

1. Interest Groups 317 

2. Confidence under More and Less Complex Conditions 318 

3. “Acquaintance" 320 

4. Discretion 320 

5. Friendship and Love 324 

6. Marriage 326 

III. Secrecy 330 

1. The Role of the Secret in Social Life 330 

2. The Fascination of Secrecy 332 

3. The Fascination of Betrayal 333 

4. Secrecy and Individualization 334 

5. Adornment 338 

IV. The Secret Society 345 

1. Protection and Confidence 345 

2. Silence 349 

3. Written Communication 352 

4. Secrecy and Sociation 355 

xvi Contents 

5. Hierarchy 356 

6. Ritual 358 

7. Freedom 360 

8. Features of the Secret Society as Quantitative Modifica- 
tions of General Group Features 361 

(a) separateness, formality, consciousness 362 

(b) exclusion: signs of recognition 363 

(c) THE aristocratic MOTIVE; ARISTOCRACY 364 

(d) degrees of initiation: formal and material SEPA- 

(e) group egoism 367 

PLES 368 






PART five: Faithfulness and Gratitude; Negativity of Col- 
lective Behavior; the Stranger; Metropolis 

I. Faithfulness and Gratitude 379 

II. The Negative Character of Collective Behavior 396 

III. The Stranger 402 

IV. The Metropolis and Mental Life 409 

INDEX 427 


simmel’s readers may 
well find themselves puzzled once they try to analyze their im- 
pression: does it come from an extraordinary mind or from its 
product, from a process or from an achievement, from an atti- 
tude or from the discoveries made by virtue of it? The dichot- 
omies may be clarified by testimonials of Simmels hearers, who 
“too, helped build”; Simmel took “his students down an 
oblique pit into the mine”; he was not a teacher, he was an 
“inciter.” “Just about the time when . . . one felt he had 
reached a conclusion, he had a way of raising his right arm and, 
with three fingers of his hand, turning the imaginary object so 
as to exhibit still another facet.” ^ A lecture by Simmel was 
creation-at-the-moment-of -delivery: the essence of SimmeFs 
spell seems to have been the spontaneous exemplification of the 
creative pro(!ess. 

Who wasythis man? Does his life give^Jnsight into his signifi- 
cance? Is^ there ^relation between ^mall’s biography and his 
work? What little we know indicates that biqgraphy^is the less 
important, the less true to type and the more original x^he^man; 
but there are certain data we feel relevant in all cases, , if only 
for the contrast betweer](<a man and his history to stand out the 
more clearly: “to be a stranger is ... a very positive relation; 
it is a specific form of interaction.” 2 And further, once we are 
aroused to explore a life as a clueito a mind, and the mind as 
a clue to its work, we become aware of our ignorance. In the 
case of Simmel, with hardly a biography, no biographical diary, 
with few letters existing and practically none published,® the 
case is worse; worse still, because what biographical facts are 
known suggest only the most tenuous hypotheses concerning 
their relation to his work. We pass them in review quickly, 
along with what light they may throw on SimmeFs mind. 


xviii Introduction 

§ 1. Fragments of SimmeFs Life and Mind 

* Georg Simmel,^ the youngest of seven children, was bom in 
Berlin on March i, 1858. His father, a partner in a well-known 
chocolate factory, died when Georg was a boy. A friend of the 
family, the founder of an international music publishing house, 
was appointed his guardian. He left Simmel a considerable for- 
tune which enabled him to lead the life of a scholar. Simmel’s 
mother was temperamental and domineering. 

After graduating from the gymnasium, Simmel entered the 
University of Berlin at the age of eighteen to study history. De- 
spite Mommsen’s impact on him, he soon changed to philos- 
ophy. Later, he named Lazarus and Steinthal, the founders of 
V olkerpsychologie , as his most important teachers; but he also 
studied with Harms and Zeller (philosophy), with Bastian (psy- 
chology), with Droysen, Sybel, Treitschke, Grimm, and Jordan 
(history). As the second “minor” in his doctoral examination, 
he chose medieval Italian, and made a s pecial study of Petrarch. 
In x88i, he received his doctor’s degree with a dissertation on 
“The Nature of Matter according to Kant’s Physical Monadol- 
ogy.” From 1885 to 1900, he was a Privatdozent (a lecturer un- 
paid except for student fees) in philosophy, and for another 
fourteen years, an ausserordentlicher Professor ("professor 
extraordinary,” an honorary, but not a remunerative title) — 
both at the University of Berlin. In 1914, at the age of 56, four 
years before his death, he was called to Strasbourg as a full 
professor (Ordinarius). He died on September 26, 1918. 

Simmel’s slow advancement ® stood in contrast with his great 
reputation as a speaker and thinker. But for many, this reputa- 
tion was that of an exclusively negative and critical spirit; and 
both Simmel’s mind and work were the indirect basis of the 
judgment. His mind has been characterized as dialectical; there 
was a preponderance of the logical and epistemological ele- 
ment over the normative; there was his “micipscopic'method,” 
the absence of the “uiierring instinct of^we truly artistic man,” 
the overabundance of associations.® An* in his first books, his 
power of discrimination was employecjjnritically more than con- 
structively, especially in his “Introduction to Moral Science,” 
a survey of ethical concepts. But unless one is critical of a criti- 

Introduction xix 

cal attitude, one must agree with Simmel himself, who wrote 
(to Max Weber, in connection with an abortive effort to obtain 
a professorship for him at Heidelberg, March i8, 1908): 

‘‘What you write has not surprised me. . . . Only this, 
briefly: in certain circles the idea exists that I am an exclusively 
critical, even a destructive spirit, and that my lectures lead one 
only to negation. Perhaps I don’t have to tell you that this is a 
nasty untruth. My lectures, as, for many years, all my work, 
tend exclusively toward the positive, toward the demonstra- 
tion of a deeper insight into world and spirit, with complete 
renunciation of polemics and criticism in regard to divergent 
conditions and theories. Whoever understands my lectures and 
books at all, cannot understand them in any other way. Never- 
theless, that opinion has existed for a long time; it is my kismet; 
and I am convinced that the minister’s ‘unfavorable mood’ 
goes back to some such communication . . 

Simmel lectured on “logic, principles of philosophy, history 
of philosophy, modem philosophy, Kant, Lotze, Schopenhauer, 
Darwin, pessimism, ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of 
art, psychology, social psychology, political psychology, and 
sociology.” ® His writings ranged equally far, and he published 
mu^._®. The areas of his major production may be classified as 
sociology, philosophy of history, ethics, general philosophy, 
philosophy of art, philosophy of contemporary civilization, and 

Reading Simmel prompts an inquiry into his mind. Simmel 
often appears as though in the midst of writing he were over- 
whelmed by an idea, by an avalanche of ideas, and as if he in- 
corporated them without interrupting himself, digesting and 
assimilating only to the extent granted him by the onrush. This, 
perhaps, strikes some as personal about his writing, and others 
as disorganized, even irritating. His few published aphorisms 
and posthumous fragments suggest that one way in which he 
developed an essay was to begin with ideas occurring to him as 
themes that were jotted down for later elaboration and connec- 

“The Simmelian order resembles the interrelations in the collec- 
tion of a real friend of the arts, who has alwayjLhQU|^lt only 

XX Introduction 

what excited him and was an experience to him . . . And yet, 
the collection has a compelling unity, because all its pieces were 
chosen on the basis of a unique attitude toward art, of a unique 
view of life and world.** 

But ‘'sometimes** 

“one has the feeling that Simmel . . . insistently prefers Cinder- 
ellas among experiences (so to speak), either to reveal, precisely 
in them, his virtuosity of philosophizing ... or to show how, 
even from them, paths lead into ultimate depths.** 12 

Simmers relation to things — “things,** “objects,** the “objec- 
tive,** “objectivity** occupied^him in many of his writings, espe- 
cially in his “Philosophy of Money** — ^seems to have been as 
intimate as his relation to ide^s. Wandering through the streets 
of a city where he had given a lecture, he discovered two black 
Wedgwood bowls in a cobbler*s shop — ^which was the beginning 
of a collection. He may have hit upon ideas in a similar fashion, 
and they, too, were often beginnings of collections, if they did 
not remain isolated discoveries which he put in his diary or filed 
away or did not record at all.^^ Perhaps one could makd a good 
case for the proposition that he was most profound in his aphor- 
isms, in this, shots into the unknown — or perhaps it is merely 
that the distance between the allusion and the uncharted (un- 
charted at least for Simmel) is so much more striking than be- 
tween the road and the landscape through which it leads. A few 
samples may clarify the point: 

“I don*t kfiow which of these two shows man*s vulgarity 
more: when he gets accustomed to ugliness or when he gets ac- 
customed to beauty. 

Objectivity toward people often hides the most boundless 

To tyeat not only every person, but every thing as if it were 
its owii^end: this would be ^ cosmic ethics. 

In comedy, a highly individual fate Sis fulfilled by typical 
characters; in tragedy, a general-human fate by individual char- 

All that can be proved can also be disputed. Only the un- 
provable is indisputable. 

Introduction xxi 

We think we actually understand things only when we have 
traced them back to what we do not understand and cannot 
understand — to causality, to axioms, to God, to character.” 

Simmers attitude toward events and processes during his 
lifetime is difficult to infer. His writings reveal little, although 
his interest in certain contemporary literary, philosophical, and 
artistic phenomena is obvious, and his constitutive function in 
some of them would reward investigation.^® But up to the war, 
he was not interested in following the history of his time. With 
the outbreak of the war, however, he began to write much in 
great agitation, and he continued to write and speak until shortly 
before his death. In the beginning he was swayed, it seems, by 
the general excitement; and, in a speech on ^‘Germany’s Inner 
Transformation,” delivered in Strasbourg in November, 1914, 
he spoke and then published such phrases as “This is what is so 
wonderful about this time”; ''history we aie now experiencing”; 
“I dare say that most of us have only now experienced what may 
be called an absolute situation”; “I love Germany and therefore 
want it to live — to hell with all ‘objective’ justification of this 
wil^in terms of culture, ethics, history, or God knows what else”; 
“Germany . . . again pregnant with a great possibility”; “This 
war somehdW has a significance different from that of other 
wars”; and the like. But only fourteen months later, in another 
speech on the “Crisis of Culture,” held in Vienna, he said this 
about the war, and published it\in the same pamphlet (“The 
War and the Spiritual Decisions,” 4917): 

“The most basic formula of a highly developed culture — a 
formula which transcends all particular contents — ^may be sug- 
gested by'^designating it as a crisis constantly held back. . . . 
Insofar as [the war] has any effect at all on these fundamental, 
inner forms of culture ... it can merely inaugurate a scene or 
an act of\this endless drama.” 

And in this vein, as a pointed and passionate analyst of con- 
temporary civilization, he wrote his last comments on the times 
(especially the speech just quoted, “The Idea of Europe,” and 
“The Conflict of Modern Civilization” [1918] — when he was 
not the morally outraged critic of misconduct or spoke in the 

xxii Introduction 

service of charitable organizations, such as the Red Cross, or to 
soldiers at the front. 

Two-and-a-half months before his death, he wrote in a letter: 

‘‘There is hardly anything to say about us. We live in the 
antinomy between the most enormous inner excitements and 
tensions and a cloisterly secluded, evenly bleak external exist- 
ence. . . . The conflict over the fact that one is firmly tied to 
Germany's and Europe’s fates and is tom without resistance into 
all of their turmoil — but that for the very sake of Germany and 
Europe one must free oneself from this and stand above it in 
the redeeming sphere of the spirit: this conflict demands, even 
for the very imperfect measure in which one can bear or solve 
it from hour to hour, an effort which I don’t know how much 
longer can be sustained.” 

In the end, Simmel no longer asked about political events. 
‘‘During his last days,” Gertrud Simmel, his wife, wrote shortly 
after he died, “Georg no longer wanted the paper, and I did not 
want to bring it uncalled lest I disturb him in his thoughts.” 
And ten years later: 

“Before he died, Georg Simmel said emphatically and on 
more than one occasion that he had done his essential work; 
that he could merely have applied his way of looking at things 
farther and farther and to ever new objects — to something 
really new it would not have come. 

And yet, one felt something like a reservation in these utter- 
ances; and in fact he once spoke of it by adding: “Unless I had 
another twenty years of full strength ahead of me, something 
which in my age is not at all my share,” His reservation pre- 
sumably concerned studies which would have been in the pur- 
suance of the line traced by his last book, Lebensanschauung 
[“View of Life”] — in the pursuance of this line, or perhaps in 
a new turn.” 22 

Simmel seems to have been impressed from the beginning 
by the relationism of all items (a more suggestive name for much 
of his “r^tivism” ^s), which he found to haujnj:. ever new terri- 
tories-;:^rom ^ciplogy to history to ethics ta epistemology to art. 
But he appears to have yearned for an Archimedean point; and 

Introduction xxiii 

although he may be said always to have had such a point, he 
made it explicit (if at all) only in his metaphysics of life, in 
Lebensanschauung, which he found shortly before he died. Most 
of this was in 1918 when, knowing that he was stricken with 
cancer of the liver, he w^nt to the Black Forest to finish the book. 
Those who knew him*^est agree he was greatest, came into his 
perfection, during those last months, in his life even more than 
in the book written out of it — that, clearly, what he once said 
of a beloved person, applied to him: h e was “a fl ower on the tree 
of mankind.” 

“What permitted Simmel to get along with a minimum of 
personal experiences and to reconstruct and sympathize with 
the most alien and varied conditions, attitudes, conflicts, suffer- 
ings, and happinesses? Was he ultimately a naive intellect who 
Irew upon the depth and the wealth, of his own inner experi- 
ences? Or did he have a kind of^clairvoyant imagination and the 
capacity to push this imagination dialectically ever further? Or 
did the free mobility of his intellect awaken and progressively 
strengthen, as its own complement, a longing after roots in a 
firm province, after a home in a circle of ultimate experience? 

This, too, is possible.” 


Simmel’s conception of philosophy as the expression of a 
human type raises in a new light the old question of the nature 
of subject and object and of their relation, most conspicuously 
perhaps as the connection between attitude and validity (a vari- 
ant of the question posed earlier here). To focus on this problem, 
in fact, may objectively be the most fruitful attack on the yield 
of Simmel’s work. But it is well to remember a suggestion in re- 
gard to*^ comprehensive study of him, which has to solve two 
tasks above all: 

“first, it must illumine for us Simmel’s intellectual existence, as 
he illumined Goethe’s [in his book on Goethe]; that is, his deeds 
and omissions, his creations and accomplishments, must be un- 
derstoo<Fbut of the uniqueness of his personality. And then, his 
works must be collected, ordered, and minutely indexed, for 
only then can they become (fertile for science . . . , which will 
be able to change all the gold Aat glitters and shines in this 
work into its own coin.” 27 

xxiv Introduction 

But it would also seem promising to appreciate the matters 
about which Simmel did riot write (or hardly wrote), and for 
what reasons: for instance, language, music, and “human types" 
other than Rembrandt, Miche^ngelo, Rodin, Goethe, the “ulti- 
mate heightenings of his own self." And what matters did he 
take for granted? Pointing analysis on such question^^ight not 
only lead to/ formulating his “central attitude," but might 
also elucidate the objective problem of^the relation between at- 
titude and validity, and between subject and object in gene ral. 
It is hoped that in the last two sections of this introduction 
studies of this sort are anticipated. 

§ 2. Simmel in America 

In the United States, Simmel never had a great name as a 
philosopher, but from the turn of the century to the ’twenties 
he was well known as a sociologist. Between 1893 and 1910, a 
number of his writings, most of them sociological, appeared in 
American periodicals,^^ especially in The American Journal of 
Sociology, the majority of them in translations by Albion W. 
Small. Park and Burgess gave him a prominent position in their 
classic Introduction to the Science of Sociology (1921).®^ Spyk- 
man’s ^The Social Theory of Georg Simmel, further evidence of 
his enthusiastic reception, followed shortly (1925), but its author, 
along with Park, was presently criticized by Sorokin.®^ In the 
following year, Abel published a new appraisal of Simmel’s 
sociology (1929), and soon afterward (1932) appeared Becker’s 
elaboration of von Wiese’s “systematic sociology," a work in 
which Simmel plays an important role.®® These few events mark 
his career in America to date. 

Fifty years ago, American sociology was still in the process of 
emerging from its European influences, especially the German. 
Many of its best known representatives spent some of their stu- 
dent days in Germany, and numerous products of German sociol- 
ogy, conspicuously among them some of Simmel’s, were at once 
made available to American readers.®^ But with the development 
of sociology as an empirical and quantitative study, interest in 
the more theoretical and philosophical European literature re- 
ceded. The last decade, however, has witnessed a new appeal of 

Introduction xxv 

selected European contributions, the most important cases in 
point being Talcott Parsons* The Structure of Social Action and 
the various Max Weber translations.®® 

Translation, of course, is neither a prerequisite nor a guar- 
antee of acquaintance or influence. Some American sociologists 
are well-versed in European sociology, whether translated or 
not, and others, perhaps, do not fully utilize what renditions 
exist. And it is a question whether a translation is as helpful in 
communicating a thinker’s ideas as an appraisal of his thought.®® 
It seems obvious, however, that it is the most desirable means of 
introducing two types of works: those ought to be introduced 
into American scholarship whose foremost relevance lies in 
empirical knowledge or methodological acumen not yet sur- 
passed by American achievements (and here Weber and Durk- 
heim would seem to qualify pre-eminently); and those whose 
greatest importance lies in the exemplification — predominantly, 
or in addition to the first criterion — of a suggestive intellectual 
approach. Simmel’s work appears best to fit this second category. 

§ 3 . The Translations 

The translations contained in this book have been taken 
from three sources. Part One, '‘Fundamental Problems of So- 
ciology (Individual and Society),” is a complete rendition of 
Grundfragen der Soziologie (Individuum und Gesellschaft) 
(1917), Simmel’s last comprehensive statement on sociology. 
Parts Two through Five, Chapter 3, inclusive, are taken from 
his major work in the field, Soziologie, Untersuchungen iiber 
die Formen der V ergesellschaftung (1908). (Parts Two through 
Four are given in the order in which they appear as chapters in 
that work; Part Five, Chapters 1-3, consists of *'Exkurse** con- 
tained in other chapters of Soziologie not included here.) The 
remaining pages of the volume (Part Five, Chapter 4) are the 
translation of a lecture, *'Die Grossstddte und das Geistesleben'* 

Simmel appended the following note to the table of contents 
of Soziologie: 

"Each of these chapters contains many discussions which more 
or less closely surround its title problem. But they are not only 

xxvi Introduction 

treatments of it: they also are relatively independent contribu- 
tions to the total problem [of the book]. The ultimate intention 
and the methodological structure of these studies required their 
arrangement undei\(few central concepts but, at the same time, 
required llgreat latitude in regard to the particular questions 
treated under their heads. The chapter headings, therefore, cover 
the content only quite imperfectly; the content is given in the 
subject index at the end of the volume.” *8 

This suggests that the ten chapters of Soziologie might be likened 
to connected nets which must be opened by those who want to 
know what they contain. Simmel^ short “P i^ffac e” to the work 
gives an important clue to their arrangement: 

“If a study is carried on according to the legitimate cognitive 
purposes and methods of an existing science, the connection with 
this science determines the place of the study: an introduction 
to it need not establish the right^to this place but can simply 
claim a right already justified. But if an investigation lacks such 
a connection (which would, at least, eliminate the need for dis- 
kussing its right to its specific way of asking questions); if the 
manner in which the investigation connects phenomena finds no 
model for its formula in any domain of the recognized disciplines 
— then, clearly, the determination of its place within the system 
of the sciences, the discussion of its methods and potential fer- 
tilities, is a new task in itself, which requires its solution not in 
a preface, but as the first part of the very investigation. 

This is the situation of the present attempt at giving the 
fluctuating Concept of sociology an unambiguous content, domi- 
nated by one, methodologically certain, problem-idea. The re- 
quest to the reader to hold on, uninterruptedly, to this one 
method of asking questions, as it is developed in the first chapter 
(since otherwise these pages might impress him as an accumula- 
tion of unrelated facts and reflections) — this request is the only 
matter which must be mentioned at the head of this book.” 

The first chapter, on “the problem of sociology,” including 
the epistelmological discussion of the question, “How is society 
possible?” is not contained in the present volume. It is replaced 
by Simmel’s later conception (Part One, Chapter i, below) ac- 

^Jjilreduction xxvii 

cording to which there are three kinds' of sociology that are 
exemplified in the remaining three chapters of Part One. The 
selections making up the remaining four fifths of this book are 
indeed held together by a “specific way of asking questions,” 
by “one, methodologically certain, problem-idea”; but it is 
doubtful that Simmel gave as “unambiguous” a formula of it 
as he seems to have believed he did. 

There are perhaps no intrinsic reasons for preferring the 
passages selected to others; the major reason is that several Amer- 
ican sociologists 39 acquainted with Simmel’s work, and with the 
teaching of it, agreed upon their importance (and on that of 
several others whose inclusion has been prevented only by tech- 
nical circumstances). 

§ 4 . SimmeVs “Field of Sociology’* 

For reasons of economy, comments on this book will be re- 
stricted to its first chapter, an over-all outline of sociology. In 
contrast to\the preceding paragraphs, the following pages thus 
deal with Simmel’s work. The treatment, of course, is colored 
by the earlier statements, with their (not altogether explicit) 
conception of Simmel. But an interpretation, Simmel wrote, 
“will always, admittedly or not, also be a confession. of. the in- 
terpreter,” ^9 and if the interpreter’s “involvement” leads to in- 
sights not otherwise gained, there is a chance that it becomes an 
objective example, and thus justified. 

Two observations must be made, however, before discussing 
the “field of sociology.” The first, which the reader will make for 
himself, is that the following comments cann ot be understood 
without a knowledge of their text. Without the second observa- 
tion explicitly made, the reader may gain a false impression or 
become confused. The point is that there exists no contradiction 
between the positive attitude exhibited in many of the preceding 
pages, and the critical attitude exemplified in the present sec- 
tion. The work commented upon is so. important that no human 
precautions are called for. The general statements an sociology^ 
of which the text discussed is a pre-eminent example, are among 
the most vulnerable of Simmel’s sociological writing but for 
this very reason, the most profoundly important to*nistorians 

xxviii Introduction 

and philosophers of sociology. Simmers topical chapters, a good 
sample of which is offered in this volume, are equally if not more 
brilliant; and many of them, as the reader will discover, have 
hot been surpassed jin their grasp, depth, sensitivity, timeliness. 
But in these chapters, Simmel is creating, and to watch him at 
work is a delight. Here, in his methodological and metaphysical 
concerns, he seems, rather, to be struggling; and the reaction, 
to the extent he is, is not delight, but sympathy, empathy, awe, 
concern, participation, involvement. Even here, however, we 
may be inclined to expose ourselves to that aspect of his mind 
in which the distinction we are accustomed to make between 
science and philosophy seems to dim and become precocious 
and petty, dissolving, as it does, in the crucible of creativity. If 
it is nevertheless insisted upon in the following pages, this is done 
in a combined act of daredeviltry and devil's advocacy, in order 
to clarify the problems which Simmel (it must not be forgotten) 
has given us, for us to receive and transform. 

'‘society" and "individual" 


In order to delimit the nature of sociology, Simmel criticizes 
two equally misleading conceptions of its subject matter, "so- 
ciety." One of them minimizes the concept; the other exagger- 
ates it. That is, Simmel suggests, we cannot be satisfied with ad- 
mitting either ^hat individuals alone are "real," or that society 
alone is "real/ (merely because all human life occurs in society): 
we cannot do without;, either of the two ideas. For, "society" is 
among the "least dubious and most legitimate contents" of '*hu- 
man knowledge"; and the "individual," though not an ultimate 
cognitive unit, a (presumably ii^rSBicable) object "of expe- 

Almost three decades earlier (in Vber sociale Differenzier- 
ung), when Simmel faced the individual-society "problem" for 
the first time, he presented a similar argument. But instead of 
denying the individual as a cognitive object, he insisted upon 
the difficulty^ due to our knowledge of evolution^ of so conceiv- 
ing of him: logic (he wrote) leads us to recognize only atoms as 
the ultimately "real." In Grundfragen, however, in his formu- 
lation of the individual, a unit of experience , he presents a 

Introduction xxix 

conception very closely related to that of Dilthey, who main- 

“We know natural objects from without through our senses. . . 
How different is the way in which mental life is given to usi In 
contrast to external perception, inner perception rests upon an 
awareness {Innewerden), a lived experience (Erleben), it is im- 
mediately given.’’ ^2 

Yet shortly after calling the individual a unit of experience, 
Simmel returns to his earlier argument: 

“Color molecules, letters, particles of water indeed ‘exist’; but 
the painting, the book, the river are syntheses: they are units 
that do not exist in objective reality but only in the conscious- 
ness which constitutes them. . . . It is perfectly arbitrary to stop 
the redudfion, which leads to ultimately real elements, at the 
individual. For this reduction is interminable.’’ 

But in “Social Differentiation,’’ Simmel recognized atomism as 
theoretically inescapable, though practically unusable: “The 
question of how many and which real units we have to fuse into 
a higher but only subjective unit ... is only a question of 
practice.” J^ow, by contrast, he proceeds to lead atomism ad 
absurdum, even if still on epistemological grounds. For he sug- 
gests that atomism is due to an erroneous conception of the 
nature of cognition: the more adequate conception of it is to 
consider it as a process of abstraction. (The abstract character of 
sociology is discussed in Sect. 2.) 

But Simmel is here engaging in a fallacious argument. Ac- 
tually, he is not distinguishing between two conceptions of cog- 
nition, but between two heterogeneous inquiries (about whose 
connection, furthermore, he is silent). The first inquiry, to which 
“atomism” is a possible answer, is into the nature of reality; it 
is ontological. The second inquiry, to which “cognition is ab- 
straction” is a possible answer, is into the nature of cognition; 
it is epistemological. Thus, by switching from one inquiry 
(ontological) to another (epistemological), Simmel tries to vali- 
date the concept of “society” epistemologically; but as a sociol- 
ogist, that is, as a scientist, he needs no such validation. For as a 
scientist, he needs only a pragmatic justification: he must merely 

XXX Introduction 

show that 'a concept (in this instance, the concept o£ “sogiety") 
is useful) for his theory or research; the pragmatic justification 
requires no ontological or epistemological supplement. 

To make this clearer, attention may be called to Simmel’s 
discussion of the(isolated indivicju^l as a sociological phenome? 
non (Part Two, Ch. 3, Sects. 2-4). There he simply finds it use-^ 
ful so to consider the^individual, because he thus discovers maf)-‘ 
ters he would not otherwise have noticed; and he is far from 
raising suchyontofdgical questions as whether the individual is 
a marginal case or a residuum of sociation or whether, inversely, 
society is a mere instrument of individuation, etc. It is precisely 
this kind of question, however, which Simmel asks in the present 
context, his general development of sociology. He is aware, here, 
of his “insecure foundations,” while in the discussion of the 
quantitative aspects of the group (which contains the treatment 
of the isolated individual), he is preoccupied with empirical 
challenges and thus is sure of his “solid structures.” (On the con- 
trast between “insecure foundations” and “solid structures,” see 

At any rate, in the present context, Simmel fails to distinguish 
between a philosophicaTand ar^pragmatic justification.^* Is this 
an oversight? Or does it suggest that Simmel’s conception of 
“sociology” is not that of a science alone, but of a scientific- 
philosophical enterprise, or of a strictly philosophical enterprise? 
We shall see, on the analysis of further arguments, that the im- 
putation of an “oversight” is uncalled for since the second hy- 
pothesis (to be specified) is the more plausible one. 

“Society” itself is presently defined as “a number of individ- 
uals connected by interaction.” But at the same time, Simmel 
seems to suggest that it is only the sum total of these interactions, 
without the individuals. For a more explicit statement, we must 
look elsewhere {Soziologie, Ch. 1): 

“ ‘Society’ is, first^/the -complex -oftsocietalized individuals, the 
societally formed human material, as it constitutes the whole 
historical reality. Secondly, however, ‘society’ is also the sum 

virtue of which individuals are 
transftin^^^fecisely, into ‘society’ in the first sense. . . . 

Society/'||yii,’in the sense that is of use to soc 4 ologyr>is either 

Introduction xxxi 

the,absj£act. general concept of aJULthese forms — the genus whose 
species they are — or it is their sum* operating at a particular 
time.” « 

Thus even here, we do not find an ui^mbiguous statement but 
must simply conclude that Simmel leans toward the second defi- 
nition, without clearly deciding in favor of suggesting what 
use the first might have. In his studies (as against hh theoretical 
statements), he appears to be no clearer, but likewise only to 
tend toward the second; yet in regard to his studies, the question 
of defining “society” is practically irrelevant. 


In Sect. 2, on (the abstract character of sociology, Simmel 
comes back to the problem of establishing a science of sociology 
in the face of the observationvthat “nqan in all aspects of his life 
and action is determined ly;, the fact that he is"^ social being.” 
Does this not, he asks (as is maintained by that “exaggerated” 
notion of “society” which was mentioned earlier by him) — does 
this not reduce all sciences of man to mere parts of the science 
of social life? Since Simmel is convinced that the “special social 
sciepces” witt continue no matter how sociology may develop, 
the answer can only be negative. Hence, in order to establish 
sociology as a science which is yet no utopian “master science,” 
a different route must be taken. 


Simmel suggests this route by calling attention to the “so- 
ciological viewpoint” — in his words, to the recognition of 
“societal production,” that is, the social explanation (or inter- 
pretation) of historical phenojnena. This explanation histori- 
cally superseded ^explanations in terms of production I>y in- 
dividuals and by divine interference. To act on the knowledge 
(or interpretation) that historical phenomena are social prod- 
ucts, is to view them in a new light, is to adopt a new method 
for studying them — in short, is to institute a new method for 
“the historical disciplines and . . . the human studies in gen- 
eral.” This method is “sociology.” Sociology 

xxxii Introduction 

yields possibilties of solution or of deeper study which may be 
derived from fields of knowledge contentually quite different 
(perhaps) from the field of the particular problem under in- 

An inspection of the three examples which illustrate the 
application of this method suggests that it consists in the ab- 
straction.of. certain elements from historical reality, and in their 
recombination for specific study. (Note particularly the end of 
the second example.) In the instances given, these elements 
are, first, the effect of a mass upon the individual; second, readi- 
ness for sacrifice (and other attitudes) found in religious devo- 
tion but associated not only with religious groups; and, third, 
generalized attitudes toward the world (here, individualism as 
against concentration upon uniformities). Obviously, these ele- 
ments, the objects of sociological abstraction, are, in some sense, 
heterogeneous. What they have in common is clarified, though 
only indirectly, by recalling the historical role of sociology men- 
tioned before: all three examples reflect “societal production.” 
Their common features are further illuminated by Simmel’s 
statements concerning the problem areas of sociology. 

[d] “general” sociology 

The first “problem area,” resulting in the articulation of 
“general sociology,” is introduced by the proposition that hu- 
man life may be considered from three (or possibly more) stand- 
points: objective, individual (subjective), and social. That the 
last of these, the social standpoint, is not perfectly clear, is no 
objection, according to Simmel, “for it is a characteristic of 
the human mind to be capable of erecting solid structures, 
while their foundations are still insecure.” And from the im- 
mediately following examples of sociological investigations 
(fall of the Roman Empire, relation between religion and eco- 
nomics in the great civilizations, etc.), it appears that his 
methodology is propaedeutic rather than specific (which may 
be one implication of his remark on “solid structures” vs. “in- 
secure foundations”). To grasp Simmel’s position in another 
frame of reference: he has not been able to objectify his atti- 

Introduction xxxiii 

tude toward sociology, or toward the sociologically relevant 
world. He himself comes close to making this point in the fol- 
lowing passage from Soziologie (especially in the^ parts here 

“If I myself stress the wholly fragmentary, incomplete char- 
acter of this book, I do not do so in order to protect myself, in 
a cheap manner, against objections to this character. For when 
measured by the ideal of objective perfection, the selection of 
the particular problems and examples contained in this work 
doubtless presents a haphazard character. Yet if this character 
should strike one\as a defect, this would only go to prove that 
I have not been able to clarify the fundamental idea of the pres- 
ent volume. For according to this idea, nothing more can be at- 
tempted than to establish the beginning and the direction of an 
infinitely long road — the pretension of any systematic and defin- 
itive completeness would be, at least, a self-illusion. Perfection 
can here be obtained by the individual student only in the sub- 
jective sense that he communicates everything he has been able 
to see*' 

The nature of the “sociological problems in the narrower 
sense of this term,“ on which Simmel continues the discussion, 
is another indication of the merely propaedeutic or program- 
matic character of his sociology as methodology. One of these 
more narrowly sociological problems belongs to the general 
question of whether sociology, in the course of investigating his- 
torical phenomena, can hope to establish laws.^® Another prob- 
lem is that of group power; and a third is constituted by the 
“value relations between collective and individual conduct, ac- 
tion, and though t“ — a phrase which, in the next chapter, turns 
out to have anticipated a treatise on (chiefly) group character- 
istics as compared with individual characteristics,\the distinction 
(within the individual)^ ^f private and group aspects, and “mass 
psychology*' or “collective behavior*’ (in contemporary termi- 
nology). What, then, in brief, is “general sociologyP’^iihmel an- 
swers (but only in the subsequent discussion of “pure or formal 
sociology’’): the study “of the whole of historical "life insofar as 
it is formed societally.’’ 

xxxiv Introduction 

[e] “formal” sociology 

The second problem area and kind of sociology, “pure” or 
"formal” sociology, investigates “the societal forms themselves,” 
which make “society (and societies) out of the mere sum of liv- 
ing men.” Examples of such “forms” are 

“superiority and subordination, competition, division of labor, 
formation of parties, representation, inner solidarity coupled 
with exclusiveness toward the outside.” 

These and similar forms, Simmel points out, may be exhibited 
by the most diverse groups; and, the same interest may be real- 
ized in very different forms. He subsumes “groups” and “inter- 
ests,” together, under the category of “content,” which is sharply 
contrasted with that of “(societal) form” or “sociation.” 

In terms of its subject matter, “formal” sociology 

“is not a special science, as . . . [sociology] was in terms of the 
first problem area. Yet in terms of its clearly specified way of 
asking questions, . . . [sociology] is a special science even here.” 

The implication seems to be that “formal” and “general” sociol- 
ogy have different kinds of subject matter, and for this reason 
are special sciences in different senses of the term. 

[f] “philosophical” sociology 

The discussion of “philosophical sociology,” the third and 
last kind, begins with a treatment of the philosophical dimen- 
sions of science (including the social sciences), but then leads 
to the surprising conclusion that 

“sociology . . . emerges as the epistemology of the special social 
sciences, as the analysis and systematization of the bases of their 
forms and norms.” ** 

And likewise, it seems problematical to call the inquiry into the 
metaphysical (rather than epistemological) ramifications of so- 
ciological study, “philosophical sociology.” For, the discussion 
refers to a topic which is hardly suggested by this name: it would 
more accurately be designated as “an inquiry into the nature of 
reality suggested by the study of social phenomena” or, briefly. 

Introduction xxxv 

as “ontology on the occasion of social phenomena.” And the con- 
fusion is increased by the fact that only the first three sections 
of Ch. 4, “an example of philosophical sociology/’ constitute an 
ontological discussion, while the major part is a study in intel- 
lectual history. To a careful reader of the last paragraph in Sect. 
3 of that chapter, however, it may appear that Simmel’s road to 
ontology is intellectual history, in the sense of ontological in- 
duction from history or in a sense even closer, once more, to 
Dilthey (or even to Hegel). Does Simmel suggest that there is no 
philosophy of history other than sociology? 

It is important to elucidate the problems raised by these ob- 
scurities, surprises, and inconsistencies — the last among the 
problems here proposed for clarification. All the puzzles that 
have been noted are interrelated, and can be redefined, if not 
solved, together. 

[g] simmel’s sociology as the expression of an attitude 

But what is the value of Simmel’s conception of sociology 
given in the Grundfragen, a work written by him (according to 
von Wiese and Becker) 

“when he waS already suffering greatly from the illness which re- 
sulted in his death, and . . . [which] must be regarded as an 
unsuccessful attempt to popularize his theories?” 

And worse: the methodological statements in Soziologie (pub- 
lished long before that illness) are no clearer, as the few quota- 
tions from that work have probably shown; and Simmel ad- 
mitted some lack of clarity by his insistence, in both works, upon 
the idea of “insecure foundations.” Yet the question is rhetori- 
cal: the study of Simmel is worth our effort — provided we real- 
ize that Simmel’s vagueness derives from an attitude, and that 
this attitude is of great importance and can be clarified by 

[h] simmel’s problems 

A clue to an understanding of Simmel’s sociology is furnished 
by the suggestion that Simmel did not succeed in objectij^ing 
his attitude.®^ Or, to set this idea into an even broader fraine- 

xxxvi Introduction 

work: he confronts the student of all of his philosophy with the 
problem of the nature of attitude, on the one hand, and of 
validity, on the other, and of their relation. In the course of 
articulating his attitude, Simmel may have come to find the study 
of ‘‘sociology'' fascinating, because it helped his own articulation 
and clarification. In his pursuit of particular topics within this 
study, he made numerous finds that are objective or scientific, 
and are there for the sociologist to ponder or delight in, whether 
or not he be plagued by problems of attitude or of the philo- 
sophical implications of his pursuit. Some pages even in Part 
One, but especially the subsequent Parts, bear witness to this. 
But the “foundations" were “insecure"; and Simmel's inquiry 
was not articulated even to the point of his asking in what the 
insecurity consisted, by what he was worried. The problems 
stated in the foregoing appraisal may thus be interpreted as im- 
portant and closely interrelated grounds of his worry: the nature 
and “kinds" of sociology, and the nature of society, of “form," 
and of “content." 

The first of these implies almost all others. It is: what “way 
of asking questions" was sociology for Simmel? It is close to the 
modern concern with “social structure"; one does justice to a 
great portion of Simmel's sociology by saying that he attempted 
to throw light on the structure of society. But his very definitions 
of “society" indicate what portions of his sociology are not caught 
by this interpretation: he wavered, as we have seen, between the 
inclusion and the exclusion of the individuals connected by in- 
teraction. (And it may also be noted that he failed to distinguish 
between “society" and “group," or to show that no such distinc- 
tion is required.) The fact that one of the admittedly central 
concepts of sociology remains vague, suggests that its clear-cut 
definition was not central to Simmel nor, therefore, to his sociol- 
ogy. Perhaps he was too much engrossed in a way of grasping 
the world to find the questions whose answers would have clari- 
fied the issue. 


An important component of this way of grasping the world 
within the framework of his sociology, was what he conceived 

Introduction xxxvii 

to be '^sociol ogy as a method/* Our attention, he seems to say, 
has so insistently and constantly been called to the usefulness of 
investigating and interpreting historical affairs sociologically, 
that if we would understand them, we no longer can afford to 
do without the sociological viewpoint. And it is true that the 
sociological perspective has penetrated, for the last half century 
and, in a wider sense, for much longer, not only the social sci- 
ences (as Simmel pointed out that it might), but also the humani- 
ties. But to emphasize this viewpoint, Simmel noted, is not the 
same as to establish sociology as a special discipline. He did not 
note, however, that his emphasis itself is part of that modem at- 
titude which is interested (and often in a metaphysically not 
disinterested manner) in socializing the spirit: in conceiving 
of mind as a product, or by-product, of society, in locating, trac- 
ing, and finding mind in society.®^ But Simmel did not want to 
socialize the spirit: he wished (half-heartedly in his sociology 
and wholeheartedly elsewhere) to preserve its autonomy. He in- 
sisted that the realms of the objective and of the individual are 
coordinate with the social realm; and he may also have wanted 
to save the spirit by finding “subject matter’’ for sociology — for 
otherwise, its subject matter might become the whole world. 

[j] “general” vs. “formal” sociology 

But his first attempt at establishing a subject matter failed: 
it is difficult to distinguish the sociological method from the 
first “kind of sociology” proper, “general sociology,” whose sub- 
ject matter is “the whole of historical life insofar as it is formed 
societally.” Throughout his discussion of sociology as a method 
and of sociology's first “problem area” or “subject matter” (re- 
sulting in the postulation of “general sociology”), Simmel de- 
fines neither — and yet, the reader may well be fascinated by 
Simmel's attitude (or, as Sorokin put it in a derogatory fashion, 
by “a talented man”). 

In comparison with his discussions of the sociological method 
and of general sociology, his “formal” sociology — ^which has 
drawn the greatest attention and has aroused the greatest con- 
troversy — is in fact a successful thrust in the direction where his 
worries must lead him to seek sociological subject matter: the 

xxxviii Introduction 

“societal forms themselves.” But why did Simmel insist that 
“general” sociology and “formal” sociology are not special dis- 
ciplines in the same sense of the term? Assuming that we know 
what to understand by “history,” on the one hand, and by the 
“sociological viewpoint,” on^the other, the two can be easily 
distinguished: “ge neral” sociology . Ja .Qnlv-a. way oLlooking at 
history £or its subject matter), only a method of handling it 
(v^ereby the method interferes with the subject matter of his- 
tory as much as any method with any subject matter) — ^whereas 
“formal” sociology is not a method but a special science with its 
own subject mattS, ”the' Torms of sociation” (arul with a 
method). BiifTof Simmel, this was hot so simple, because he 
thought “general sociology,” too, had its subject matter (“his- 
torical life insofar . . .”), while “formal sociology” did not: he 
took method for subject matter in the first instance, and did the 
reverse in the second. 

The reason may be that in his ambivalent attitude toward 
the socialization of the spirit, he hesitated to throw the whole 
world, that is, any subject matter, open to the sociological ap- 
proach. If so, he did not here apply his knowledge (and his in- 
sistence on it) that sociology, like any other science, proceeds by 
abstraction. Did Simmel fear sociology might abstract too much, 
might, as it were, “pre-empt” the spirit? In one of his essays, re- 
flecting upon the sadness of ruins, he suggested that 

“the collapse strikes us as nature’s revenge of the violation which 
the spirit, by producing a form in its own image, has perpetrated 
upon it. . . . The balance between nature and spirit, which the 
building itself presented, shifts in favor of nature. This shift 
becomes a cosmic tragedy.” *•* 

Was he overpowered, too, not by nature,*® but by the “socializa 
tion of the spirit” itself? 

[k] THE “societal FORMS” 

His Kantian heritage probably prevented him from seeing 
“forms” as subject matter because they are merely “injected” 
into social life. Perhaps if he had been clearer in regard to the 
nature of science, he might have been content to say that subject 

Introduction xxxix 

matter is whatever a science studies. But perhaps he was aware of 
his uncertainty concerning what “formal” sociology was designed 
to study; at any rate, whether aware or not, he actually was not 
clear in regard to the nature of the “forms.” Again, if he came 
upon them out of his ambivalence, it is understandable that he 
should not have been; in addition, his own achievements in his 
sociological studies proper (his “solid structures”) may well have 
made him feel that he could afford a merely cursory treatment of 
the definition and of the methodological and philosophical status 
of the “forms.” To the student of Simmel, in any event — since 
“general sociology” turned out to be a program of a method only 
— the notion of “form” is the most promising methodological 
or philosophical contribution toward the establishment of so- 
ciology as a science. 

Despite the relatively numerous discussions of the “forms,” 
the concept has yet to be specified in a satisfactory manner. To 
do so requires a painstaking collection and juxtaposition of all 
passages in which Simmel employs the term,®® and the subse- 
quent formulation of a definition which does justice to all of 
them, in a way to be determined by the study itself. This is 
clearly beyond the scope of the present interpretation. But there 
is one sense ^vhich probably all of Simmel’s usages of “form” 
have in common, although it has not been noted in the litera- 
ture; and unfortunately, it is neither as specific as it might be, 
nor is it capable of answering many pertinent questions. It is 
“form” understood as that element which, among the elements 
relevant to a particular inquiry as well as to the general view- 
point of sociology, is relatively stable — as against “content” 
which, with the same specifications, is relatively variable.*® 


The chief question in regard to S immel’s “philosophical s o- 
c iology” co ncerns t he reason which led him to designate it as 
“t he episfemologv of the social sciences. ” Reading the pages 
which lead from his statements on. the philosophical dimensions 
of the social sciences to this designation, one is impressed by a 
non sequitur. Perhaps it may be resolved by suggesting that the 

xl Introduction 

sociological grasp of the world tem£ted Simmel to ennoble, to 
* *s piHmS^i ze7^oaoIoiy by elevating it to the rank of epistemo- 
logical inquiry.®! Also, his statement that ‘‘individual’* and “so- 
ciety” are “the only sociological themes that have thus far been 
realized,” may indicate his wish to reserve sociology for the 
task of checking both stagnation and the premature articulation 
of other themes. If so, he gave “philosophical sociology” a second 
role, in addition to that of social epistemology and ontology, 
namely, the role of general philosophy of the social sciences. 

These arguments may make Simmel’s leaps into philosophy 
less surprising. But there is the further fact that Simmel hardly 
went beyond the programmatic announcement of his epistemol- 
ogy and ontology into actual inquiries in these fields, neither in 
his Soziologie nor in his Grundfragen,^^ The significance of this 
merely negative fact\is greatly increased b)\the positive fact that 
he did call the last chapter of Grundfragen (Part One, Ch. 4, in 
this volume) an “example of p hilosophi cal sociology.” while it 
is predominantly in intellectual history, rather than in 

epistemology or ontology. This positive fact, ^long with the 
propositions of the preceding arguments, makes it plausible to 
suspect Simmel’s philosophical concerns to. be lio more deeply 
related to his sociological concerns \^than was necessary for the 
production of his programmatic statement — and not deeply 
enough to enforce it. 

§ 5 . The Methodological and Philosophical Importance 
of SimmeVs Sociology 

This whole introduction, practically, has been an attempt to 
evoke an image of Simmel’s significance^ The reader’s attention 
is called particularly to the paragraph preceding [a] in Sect. 4 
above, the most explicit relevant passage. A succinct concluding 
statement seems in order. 

Irrespective of his “insecure foundations,” Simmel has given 
us penetrating analyses of sociological problems. To repeat, since 
these are almost entirely matters to delight in, they have not been 
reviewed here; and the tool for their review is scientific proce- 
dure as ordinarily understood, and no more. They not only make 
up the bulk of Simmel’s work in sociology, as well as of this book. 

Introduction xli 

but will also be the chief attraction to most readers, and they are, 
furthermore, h is most imp ortant contribution to„ sociology as a 

But the historian and philosopher of sociology, rather than 
the sociologist proper, will have reason for wonder: although 
there is hardly a logical connection between Simmels general 
statements on sociology (for instance, his threefold subdivision 
of the field) and his topical statements (for instance, his discus- 
sion of the metropolis), nevertheless, since both types of state- 
ments come from the same person, there must be some psycho- 
logical connection between them. While no attempt has been 
made here to trace this connection, the two mental sets which 
may account for the two respective kinds of statements have 
been suggested: wqny and creativity. Yet the main topic has 
been an analysis of the '‘worries’': from them, it is submitted, 
Simmel wrested sociology as the scientific study of social life by 
means of the heuristic construct of “societal forms.” This con- 
struct, along with related constructs, especiaUy “interaction,” 
has contributed (for reasons which may be no more scientific 
than is the origin of “form” itself) to other constructs that are 
still in the center of contemporary sociological thought, are still 
(among other things) articulations of the sociological attitude. 
Among these are “social process,” “processes” and “types of 
interaction,” “social structure,” “social relations,” “social sys- 
tem.” ^ 

But Simmel (it has been suggested) was most profoundly im- 
portant on another count. There is a more recent viewpoint than 
the sociological attitude, although it is closely related to it; per- 
haps it is a later phase of the “so cial ization of the spirit.” It is 
embodied in that fumbling branch of sociology itself that goes 
by the name of “s ociol ogy of knowledge.” Should this branch 
grow and exemplify as unquestioned an attitude as sociology 
does now, then Simmel, because of his very confusion, might 
fully come into his own: he might emerge, not as the exemplifier 
of creativity, which to some he must have been as a speaker, but 
as the incarnation of the scope, the dangers, and the potentiali- 
ties, not yet foreseeable, of the “socialization of the spirit” itself. 
If such a time comes, sociologists may have to collaborate with 
“social ontologists” and with philosophers of history and of sci- 

xlii Introduction 

ence; and a new appraisal of our intellectual efforts and of their 
functions may be the intent or result (or only the result) of such 
a collaboration. 


(Capital letters refer to Appendices below. Names refer to authors 
of works listed in A, B, E; titles without indication of author refer 
to works by Simmel listed in B, G, or D; numbers are page references. 
Items preceded by [*] were not available for inspection at the time 
of writing,) 

1. Tagger, 37; Ludwig, 412; Flexner, 108. Cf, also Fechter, 53-54. 

2. Simmel, “The Stranger'* (Part V, Ch. 3, below). 

3. The only biographical sketch: Spykman, xxiii-xxix (source: 
Simmel's widow). Only-published letters: Weber, 382-383, 384-385, 
386-387, Practically nothing of Simmel's possessions was salvaged 
when his son and family left Nazi Germany. Attempts are being 
made to gather what scattered remains may turn up. 

4. Sources: Acknowledgements; Spykman. 

5. For an illuminating description of the generally slow uni- 
versity career in the Germany of the Kaiser: Max Weber, “Science as 
a Vocation" (1918), in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, tr., ed., 
and with intr. by H. H, Gerth and C. Wright Mills, New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1946, pp. 129-156, esp. 129-134. 

6. Hurwicz; the last quotation (198) is taken (though not quite 
exactly) from Frischeisen-Kohler, 36. Hurwicz is trying to point to 
“Jewish elements" in SimmePs jhgught. SimmePs parents, baptized 
Jews, baptized the child a Protestant; later Simmel left the church 
without, however, joining a synagogue. He must have taken his 
Jewishness for granted, although he never wrote about the Jews 
except, here and there, sociologically. Cf. Fischer, 46: “And if — as 
has been said repeatedly — it appears strange that a man of non- 
Germanic blood found the hitherto most profound insights into the 
Germanic way of art, then I want to say only that all cognition pre- 
supposes, or includes, a being-different, a setting-oneself-off, and 
that, for this very reason the Semitic thinker, at whom people like 
to look askance, was capable of circumscribing the German spirit in 

Introduction xliii 

art and philosophy more easily than others can who live and work 
in it,** Needless to say, this passage illustrates a well-known variety 
of anti-Semitism. 

7. An allusion to this episode in Hurwicz, 197. 

8. Spykman, xxv. 

9. B. 

10. c. 

11. “Aus einer Aphorismensammlung,*' Der Kunstfreund, Zeit- 
schrift der Vereinigung der Kunstfreunde, 2: 284-286, June, 1914; 
‘‘Aus dem nachgelassenen Tagebuche*' (first published in Logos, 
8:121-151, 1919-1920, as *‘Aus Georg Simmels nachgelassenem Tage- 
buch,” which in turn was a reprint of many of the aphorisms pub- 
lished in the Kunstfreund), 1-46; “Bruchstiicke und Aphorismen" 
at the end of Simmel's long essay on love (“t)ber die Liebe"'), 100-123; 
the fragments at the end of his essay on the actor ("Zur Philosophic 
des Schauspielers**), 260-265; and the fragments rounding out his 
study of naturalism (‘'Zum Problem des Naturalismus*'), 297-304; all 
in Simmel, Fragmente und Aufsdtze; also ‘*Aus Georg Simmels 
nachgelassner Mappe ‘Metaphysik’.” 

12. Utitz, 12, 8. 

13. See also, e.g., Part I, Ch. 1, Sect. 4a, below. — Cf. Delbos in 
Mamelet, iv: Siijimel '‘evidently gets the greatest pleasure from pur- 
suing the collaboration between intelligence and things . . Or, 
in a negative version, Lessing, 336, in the pun for which he humor- 
ously apologizes: “Quae non sunt simulo. (Was nicht ist wird ersim- 
melt.)"' (Things that don't exist I simmelate.) 

14. Diary excerpts in Fragmente und Aufsdtze, 1-46 (see n. 11 
above). The filing-away is suggested by the title of Gertrud Simmel's 
contribution to the Buber volume (B, no. 23, also cited in n. 11 
above): “From Georg Simmel’s Posthumous Folder, ‘Metaphysics’.” 
— At a party in his home, Simmel noted that his wife didn't fill his 
tea cup properly and asked her why. Gertrud Simmel, who was tall, 
answered that she hadn't noticed this from her height. “Now I 
understand,” Simmel replied, ‘‘why the Lord God doesn't fill the 
cups to the briml” — In conversation with another person, he inter- 
rupted himself, wonderingly: ‘‘Isn’t it something strange that one 
should be no less than oneself?” (“Ist es nicht etwas Merkwiirdiges, 
kein Geringerer als man selbst zu sein?”) — “That Bergson is more 
important than I, may well be; but what I can't see is that I should 

xliv Introduction 

be less important than he,** (Fechter, 55.) — ‘‘Thinking hurts/* (“Den- 
ken tut weh/*) — The following utterance may be apocryphical: 
“She has a great past ahead of her** (said of a young lady Simmel had 

15. From SimmeFs diary (cited in preceding n.), 35, 37, 20, 39, 4, 
4, respectively. 

16. Simmel wrote some newspaper articles on current social 
questions, e.g., *“Die Bauernbefreiung in Bohmen** (1894), *“Der 
Militarismus und die Stellung der Frauen** (1894), *“Soziale Medizin*' 
(1897), ♦“tJber die Zurechenbarkeit perverser Verbrecher** (1904), 
as well as several anonymous pieces. For bibliographical references, 
see Rosenthal-Oberlaender. See ibid,, and B, for relevant items con- 
cerning Simmel’s interest in, and literary activities in behalf of, 
Rodin, Bergson, and above all, Stefan George. 

17. “Deutschlands innere Wandlung** (a speech delivered in 
Strasbourg, November, 1914), in: Der Krieg und die geistigen Ent- 
scheidungen, 12, 13, 20, 21, 27, 28, respectively. — The fourth passage 
quoted is presumably referred to by Joel, 247, when he writes of 
SimmeFs “love for his people which now [during the war] he felt 
so deeply that he, the thinker, wanted to keep all reasons out of it.*' 
JoeFs manner of reference shows more than approval, whereas here, 
the suggestion is made that Simmel was under the impact of war 
excitement. The discrepancy presents the general problem of ap- 
praising divergent interpretations. knew Simmel personally, 
for perhaps twenty-five years {ibid,, 242), and stood under the impres- 
sion of his recent death; the present writer did not know Simmel. 
In the meantime, furthermore, there has been a second world war 
and an increase in insight into the possible ramifications of such 
words as were quoted of Simmel. But these considerations only 
throw light on different valuations in whose terms the difference 
in interpretation may be understandable. The test of preferability 
of one to another interpretation is coherence with other aspects of 
Simmel. Joel, because of his personal friendship with Simmel, prob- 
ably was more certain of his image than the present writer can be; 
but it is also possible that in the particular case at issue he was 
swayed by more ephemeral impressions, deriving from the point in 
time at which he wrote, than this writer is. (For an interpretation of 
SimmeFs intellectual activity during the war, which is considerably 
closer to the one here presented than JoeFs is, see Utitz, 9.) 

Introduction xlv 

i8. “Die Krisis der Kultur“ (1916), in: DerKrieg und die geistigen 
Entscheidungen, 64, 63, respectively. 

jg. “Die Idee Europa“ (1915? See Rosenthal-Oberlaender, no. 
189), ibid., 67-72; Der Konflikt der modernen Kultur, ein Vortrag . — 
As an example of SimmeVs moral criticism, see, e.g., his sermon to 
the wealthy, exhorting them to buy war bonds: “Eine Fastenpredigt: 
Von dem Opfer der Wohlhabenden.“ 

20. Weber, 387. 

21. Ibid., 391. 

22. Gertrud Simmel, 221. 

23. Including most of what Mamelet understands by “le relativ- 
isme de Georg Simmel,“ and in full cognizance of Troeltsch's critique 
of Simmel. (See also Kracauer, 331-332, on Simmel’s *'Kerngedanke**) 
Hence, also, there is no contradiction in Mandelbaum's counting 
Simmel (as a philosopher of history) among the “counter-r^Zfl^lt;^^^^." 

24. A proposition worked out, though not in the largest perspec- 
tive, by Mamelet, through an exposition of SimmeFs major works 
up to 1914. 

25. Frischeisen-Kohler, 36-37. 

26. See, e.g., Hauptprobleme der Philosophie, Ch. I. Also, Mame- 
let, Ch. X. 

27. Utitz, 4i«i 

28. Ibid., 19 — Beginnings of a “negative determination*' may be 
found in Kracauer, 307-308. 

29. Cf. Kurt H. Wolff, “The Sociology of Knowledge: Emphasis 
on an Empirical Attitude," Philosophy of Science, 10:111-114, 1943. 

30. See the first 13 entries in D. 

31. At one point. Small calls Simmel “one of the keenest thinkers 
in Europe" (Albion W, Small, General Sociology, Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1905, p. 498); he admittedly used some of 
Simmel's concepts (ibid., passim), as did Park and Burgess, in whose 
work Simmel is referred to more often than any other author (see 
index). Characteristic comments: “Simmel has made a brilliant 
contribution in his analysis of the sociological significance of ‘the 
stranger' " (286); “Georg Simmel has made the one outstanding con- 
tribution to a sociology or, perhaps better, a social philosophy of the 
city in his paper ‘The Great City and Cultural Life' " [D, no. 15] 
(331); “Georg Simmel, referring, in his essay on ‘The Stranger,' to 
the poor and the criminal, bestowed upon them the suggestive title 

xlvi Introduction 

of 'The Inner Enemies* ** (559); "Simmel has made the outstanding 
contribution to the sociological conception of conflict** (639); "Sim- 
mel's observation upon subordination and superordination is almost 
the only attempt that has been made to deal with the subject from 
the point of view of sociology** (720). 

32. For references to Spykman*s and Sorokin's works, see Ap- 
pendix A. Sorokin wrote: “From a purely methodological stand- 
point, SiianieFs sociological method lacks scientifeg^lllg^ I must 
express my complete disagreement with Dr. R. Park's or Dr. Spyk- 
man's high estimation of the sociological method of Simmel. Besides 
the above logical deficiency [due to the ambiguous term ‘form*: ibid,, 
501-502], Simmel's method entirely lacks either experimental ap- 
proach, quantitative investigation, or any systematic factual study 
of the discussed phenomena. In vain one would look in his work for 
a systematic method like that of the Le Play school, or of the methodo- 
logical principles of social sciences developed by A. Cournot . . .; 
or some principles like those of H. Rikkert [^ic] and W. Windelbandt 
[5eV] concerning the classification of sciences . . .; or something like 
Max Weber's method of the ‘ideal typology*; or Gabon's, Pearson's, 
and A. TchuproflE's quantitative methods of investigation; or even 
a simple, careful and attentive study of the facts he is talking about. 
All this is lacking. What there is represents only the speculative 
generalization of a talented man, backed by the ‘method of illustra- 
tion* in the form of two or three facts incidentally taken and often 
one-sidedly interpreted. Without Simmel's talent the same stuff would 
appear poor. Simmel's talent saves the situation, but only as far as 
talent compensates for lack of scientific methodology. Under such 
conditions, to call the sociologists ‘back to Simmel,' as Drs. Park and 
Spykman do, means to call them back to a pure speculation, meta- 
physics, and a lack of scientific method. Speculation and metaphysics 
are excellent things in their proper places, but to mix these with the 
science of sociology means to spoil each of those sciences." (502, n. 26.) 
(See von Wiese's critique of Sorokin's critique: Systematic Sociology 
On the Basis of the Beziehungslehre and Gebildelehre of Leopold von 
Wiese, adapted and amplified by Howard Becker, New York: Wiley; 
London: Chapman and Hall, 1932, pp. 44-47.) 

33. For Abel reference, see A; for Wiese-Becker (consult index), 
see preceding n. See E for a list of discussions of Simmel in English, 

34. Especially in and through The American Journal of Sociology 

Introduction xlvii 

(published since July, 1895). In the second issue, a group of “advising 
Editors” of three American and seven foreign sociologists, among 
them Simmel, was announced. Cf. Ethel Shanas, “The American 
Journal of Sociology through Fifty Years,” American Journal of 
Sociology, 50: 523, May, 1945. (On the beginning of the Journal, cf. 
also Bernhard J. Stern, ed., “The Letters of Albion W. Small to Lester 
F. Ward,” Social Forces, 12: 163-173 [1933]; 13: 323-340 [i935]J 15- 
174-186 [1936], 305-327 [1937]. For European, especially German and 
Austrian contacts by Ward, Ross, and several other early American 
sociologists, see also Bernhard J. Stern, ed., “The Ward-Ross Cor- 
respondence,” American Sociological Review, 3: 362-401 [1938]; 11: 

593-605. 734-748 [1946]: 12: 703-720 [1947]: 13: 82-94 [1948]: 14: 
88-119 [1949]-) 

35. Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action, a Study in 
Social Theory with Special Reference to a Group of Recent Euro- 
pean Writers [Durkheim, Pareto, M. Weber], New York and London: 
McGraw-Hill, 1937 (reprinted, Glencoe, 111.: Free Press, 1949). — 
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, tr. 
Talcott Parsons, London: Allen and Unwin; New York: Scribner, 
1930; From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (see n. 5 above); The 
Theory of Social and Economic Organization, tr. A. M. Henderson 
and Talcott Parsons, New York: Oxford University Press, 1947; On 
the Methodolo^ of the Social Sciences, tr. and ed. Edward A. Shils 
and Henry A. Finch, Glencoe, 111.: Free Press, 1949. Other transla- 
tions are in preparation. 

36. Cf. the short but suggestive remarks on this point by Robert 
Schmid in his review of Loomis' translation of Tonnies, American 
Sociological Review 6: 581-582, August, 1941. 

37. See F for the detailed sources of the translations contained in 
this volume, and G for a note on the translation itself. 

38. Cf. Utitz's suggestion of an indexed edition of Simmel's 
works (see passage to which n. 27 above refers). 

39. See “Acknowledgements.” 

40. Goethe (5th ed.), vii. 

41. Cf. Vber sociale Differenzierung, 10-11. It should be noted 
that no attempt is made here to present all of Simmel's views, even 
upon one topic, in their chronological development. Some of his 
very relevant writings, above all, “Das Problem der Soziologie” 
([Schmollers] Jahrbuch fiir Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung und Volks- 

xlviii Introduction 

wirtschaft im Deutschen Reich, VoL XVIII [1894]; for tr., see D, 
no. 2), are not referred to at all. Furthermore, this attempt, not 
made here, would also have to use many among Simmel’s primarily 
non-sociological writings. The most successful and painstaking eflEort 
of this sort, with reference to one particular theme, namely, “form,'* 
is Steinhoff. — In Grundfragen, in formulating the individual as an 
object of experience, Simmel does not raise the question whether it 
is the only object of experience, nor does he reveal whether by 
“object of experience’* he uses a synonym of some sort of “given.** 
The two questions: why he does not, and what his givens are, promise 
well for a study of Simmel, and are related to the questions raised 
(earlier and below) in regard to such a study. 

42. See also Part III, Ch. 4, Sect. 4 below. — The similarity of 
Simmel’s and Dilthey’s conceptions is also seen, in the field of soci- 
ology, by Simmel’s emphasis that Kant’s “nature** as the subject’s 
Synthesis does not apply to “society,** to which the “synthesis’* is 
intrinsic: Soziologie, 22. — ^The quotation is from Hodges, 133, from 
Dilthey’s “Ideen fiber eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psycho- 
logic** (1894). It is characteristic of Simmel not to refer to Dilthey 
or to this particular work (with which he was most likely acquainted 
if only because Dilthey taught at Berlin from 1882 to his death in 
1911), much less to analyze similarities and differences of their re- 
spective positions. This (systematic) analysis is one of the many tasks 
that result from a study of Simmel’s work and remain yet to be 
done. (Their conceptions of sociology itself were dissimilar, in spite 
of Dilthey’s approval of Simmel's “sociology.** For reference to 
Dilthey’s relevant statement, see A.) 

43. Vber sociale Differ enzierung, 12. 

44. In this particular case under discussion, Simmel’s earlier 
position (in Vber sociale Differenzierung, quoted) was more scienti- 
fic except that, as a scientist, he could not have pronounced judg- 
ment (of agreement) on the metaphysical status of atomism. It 
should be noted that in the chronologically intermediate Soziologie 
(1908), Simmel does not directly tackle the problem, but at one 
point (13) speaks of “individual existences — the real bearers of con- 
ditions.** But this, probably, is intended as a scientific statement, 
which also seems the significance of the passage in Grundfragen 
following upon the propositions discussed in the text above. There, 
Simmel in effect suggests that even from an empirical standpoint 

Introduction xlix 

one must note that * ‘individual” is no more “real” than “society”; 
that is (one may put it), both are equally heuristic concepts. (For an 
avowedly epistemological treatment of the question, “how is society 
possible,” see the ''Exkurs*' by this title which is a part of the first 
chapter of Soziologie. For a somewhat unsatisfactory translation of 
this *'Exkurs,** see reference in D, no. 13.) 

45. Soziologie, 8, 9. (For Small's translation, see item referred to 
in D, no. 12, pp. 301, 303.) 

46. This is a favorite observation, but may also stem from another 
realm of inquiry not otherwise studied by Simmel, namely, ontol- 
ogy, in particular, the ontology of mind. See the following quota- 
tion {Soziologie, 13): “After all, in intellectual matters it is not too 
rare — and, when it comes to the most general and the most pro- 
found problems, it is, as a matter of fact, the rule — that (what by an 
unavoidable metaphor is called) the foundation is less secure than 
the superstructure erected upon it. And thus, scientific practice, too, 
especially when it works in new areas, cannot do without a certain 
measure of merely instinctive advance. Only later is it possible to 
become fully conscious of the motives and norms of that stage and 
to penetrate it conceptually. Certainly, scientific work must never 
be satisfied solely by such vague, instinctual procedures. . . . Yet, 
one would ^condemn science to sterility if, before new tasks, one 
made a completely formulated methodology the condition of taking 
even the first step.” (Cf. Bentley, Relativity in Man and Society, 158, 
297.) This is elaborated in the following footnote (of which only the 
beginning is quoted here): “If we compare the infinite complexity 
of socal life with the initial crudeness which the concepts and 
methods employed to master it intellectually are only now begin- 
ning to overcome, we realize that it would be sheer megalomania to 
expect, at this juncture, radical clarity of questions and correctness 
of answers. It seems to me more dignified to admit this from the 
start (since by doing so, at least a decisive first step can be taken) 
than to pretend definitiveness, and thereby to jeopardize even the 
pioneering significance of our efforts.” 

47. Ibid. (This is the remainder of the footnote quoted in the 
preceding n. Italics added.) 

48. At this point, Simmel merely poses the question, and thereby, 
clearly, entertains Comtean and Spencerian ideas (without, how- 
ever, committing himself). He investigated the question more fully. 

1 Introduction 

though not in an ultimately satisfactory way, and with changing 
positions, in his studies in the philosophy of history. For discussion, 
see above all Troeltsch; also Spykman, Book I, Ch. V; Mandelbaum, 

49. It will be remembered that shortly before this passage, Sim- 
mel gives as examples of ‘‘special social sciences,’' “the study of 
economics and of institutions, the history of morals and of parties, 
population theory, and the discussion of occupational differentia- 
tion.” The intent of Simmel’s argument, or its surprising character, 
would presumably not be changed if, instead of these, the currently 
more customary disciplines of economics, sociology of institutions, 
and other social sciences or parts of them were named. 

50. Wiese-Becker, 83, n. 5. 

51. In interpreting the development of recent philosophy, 
Heinemann locates Simmel (along with several other thinkers) on 
the road that led “from life to existence” (not in the sense of con- 
temporary “existentialism”). This is one way of alluding to Simmel’s 

52. Quite irrespective of his confession to Troeltsch (Troeltsch, 
573, n. 309) that in his last years “sociological questions” “no longer 
interested him.” 

53. Among important American exemplifiers of this attitude, 
Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead in the social 
sciences, and John Dewey in philosophy, may be recalled. 

54. Simmel, “Die Ruine,” in Philosophische Kultur (2nd ed.), 
128, 125. (The same passage is quoted by Utitz, 15, who adds: “This 
cosmic tragedy is ultimately also the tragedy of Simmel.”) 

55. As Wiese-Becker suggest in the passage quoted earlier. 

56. Here the closing sentence of Steinhoff’s excellent study of 
“forms” is relevant (259): “That which is lacking in his work, the 
‘grouping’ and the ‘systematization’ of the relationships analyzed, 
remains as a task for those who are willing to continue his work.” 

57. Steinhoff (most important); Knevels, 51-57; also Abel, esp. 
19-49; Bougie, 345-346; Heberle, 250-255, 264-267; Mamelet, 9, 38, 
47, 209-210; Salomon, 607-608; Sorokin; Spykman, Book I and 
“Conclusion”; Wiese-Becker, 705-708; and others. 

58. For beginnings of this, see Steinhoff and Knevels. 

59. Except, possibly, by Salomon: cf. his section title (604), “A 
Theory of Social Invariables: Georg Simmel.” 

Introduction li 

6 0. “Form** as the relatively stable variable in the context of 
inquiry and viewpoint is not a specifically sociological referent. 
Among the many questions which the equation leaves unanswered 
are: (i) (a) What is the ontological status of “form?” (b) Is “form” 
to be so defined as to make its ontological status irrelevant; and if 
so, is “form” merely a heuristic, methodological construct? (c) If the 
latter, what is the empirical referent that is methodologically con- 
structed into “form?” (2) How can sociology be so transformed as to 
make all these questions unnecessary? (3) What is the relevance to 
the “socialization of the spirit” of the two respective sociologies 
implied — one to which the above questions regarding forms are 
relevant, and the other to which they are not? — It should be noted 
that all these questions must be asked, also, in regard to the comple- 
mentary notion of “content” (or the like). Finally, the whole in- 
quiry should likewise extend to an investigation, comparative and 
synthesizing, of current concerns with “structure” and “function.” 
Cf. discussions in cultural anthropology and social psychology and, 
more specifically, the works by Sorokin, Bennett-Tumin, and Davis 
cited at the end of E; and Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and 
Social Structure, Toward the Codification of Theory and Research 
(Glencoe, 111 .: Free Press, 1949), Parts I and II. 

61. This is very similar to Karl Mannheim's fascination by the 
“sociology of knowledge” and to his attempt at establishing it as 
epistemology. See, e.g., his Ideology and Utopia, An Introduction to 
the Sociology of Knowledge, (tr. Louis Wirth and Edward Shils, 
New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936), esp. 256-275; for criticism, see 
esp. Virgil G. Hinshaw, Jr., “The Epistemological Relevance of 
Mannheim’s Sociology of Knowledge,” Journal of Philosophy, 40: 
57-72, 1943, and “Epistemological Relativism and the Sociology of 
Knowledge,” Philosophy of Science, 15: 4-10, 1948. 

62. Part I, last paragraph, below. 

63. A further striking similarity between Simmel and Mannheim. 



On the whole, the literature on Simmel fails to convey the unique- 
ness of his mind, nor does it — with hardly more than one exception 

lii Introduction 

— possess the creative anxiety, excitement, and thrill which were 
typical qualities of his own work. Below is a selective, roughly classi- 
fied list. (Items preceded by [*] were not available for inspection at 
the time of writing.) 

The one certain exception is Gertrud Kanterowicz's short ‘‘Vor- 
wort*' to SimmeFs posthumous Fragmente und Aufsdtze (edited by 
her), v-x. But see also Emil Utitz, ‘‘Simmel und die Philosophie der 
Kunst," Zeitschrift fiir Aesthetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, 
XIV: 1-41, 1920; Max Frischeisen-Kohler, “Georg Simmel," Kant- 
Studien, 24: 1-51, 1920; Karl Joel, “Georg Simmel, ein Nachruf," 
Neue Rundschau (XXXter Jahrg. d. Freien Biihne), 1919, Band 1, 
pp. 241-247 (rhapsodic; obituary; the year, incidentally, is errone- 
ously indicated as 1911 in Rosenthal-Oberlaender); and perhaps 
Albert Mamelet, Le Relativisme philosophique chez Georg Simmel, 
Paris: Alcan, 1914 (pp. ix, 215; preface by Victor Delbos), although 
this is to a large extent expository. 

Sociology: Theodore Abel, Systematic Sociology in Germany, A 
Critical Analysis of Some Attempts to Establish Sociology as an 
Independent Science, New York: Columbia University Press, 1929, 
Chapter I, “The Formal Sociology of Georg Simmel,“ pp. 13-49; 
Nicholas J, Spykman, The Social Theory of Georg Simmel, Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1925 (pp. xxix, 297; incidentally, Spyk- 
man, on p. xxvii, gives SimmeFs death date erroneously as Sept. 28 — 
though, on p. xxiii, correctly, as Sept. 26); Pitirim Sorokin, Con- 
temporary Sociological Theories, New York and London: Harper, 
1928, pp. 489-491, 495-507; Rudolf Heberle, “The Sociology of 
Georg Simmel: The Forms of Social Interaction, “ in: Harry Elmer 
Barnes, ed.. An Introduction to the History of Sociology, Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1948, pp. 249-273; C. Bougie, “Les 
sciences sociales en Allemagne: G. Simmel,“ Revue de Metaphysique 
et de morale, 2: 329-355, 1894; Maria Steinhoff, “Die Form als 
soziologische Grundkategorie bei Georg Simmel, “ Kolner Viertel- 
jahrshefte fur Soziologie, 4: 215-259, 1925; Walter Frost, “Die Sozio- 
logie Simmels,” Latvijas Universitates Raksti (Acta Universitatis 
Latviensis), XII: 219-313, 1925, XIII: 149-225, 1926 (largely exposi- 
tory, to introduce Simmel “abroad"; inferior to the preceding, esp. 
Steinhoff); Paul Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie 
(1897), I (no more published), Leipzig: Reisland, 3rd and 4th ed., 
1922, pp. 149-151; Wilhelm Dilthey, “Soziologie" (1904), Einleitung 

Introduction liii 

in die Geisteswissenschaften (1883), Wilhelm Diltheys Gesammelte 
Schriften, L Band, Leipzig and Berlin: Teubner, 3rd ed., 1933, pp. 
420-422 (tr. in H. A. Hodges, Wilhelm Dilthey, An Introduction, 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1944, pp. 139-141; see also id,, 
60-61; Dilthey’s rejection of all sociology, but not of Simmers). 

History: R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1946, pp. 170-171, 174-175; Maurice Mandelbaum, The 
Problem of Historical Knowledge, An Answer to Relativism, New 
York: Liveright, 1938, pp. 101-119, 166-170; Ernst Troeltsch, Der 
Historismus und seine Probleme, Tubingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1922, 
pp. 572-596. — Philosophy: Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich, Die 
deutsche Philosophie des XIX, Jahrhunderts und der Gegenwart 
(“Friedrich Ueberwegs Grundriss der Philosophie, Vierter Teil,“ 
12th ed.), Berlin: Mittler, 1923, pp. 467-471; Frischeisen-Kohler; 
Siegfried Kracauer, “Georg Simmel," Logos, 9: 307-338, 1920-21; 
Mamelet; Max Adler, Georg Simmels Bedeutung fur die Geistes- 
geschichte, Wien, Leipzig: Anzengruber, 1919 (pp. 44); Wilhelm 
Knevels, Simmels Religionstheorie, ein Beitrag zum religidsen Prob- 
lem der Gegenwart, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1920 (pp. vi, 107; see esp. 
Part II); Fritz Heinemann, Neue Wege der Philosophie, Leipzig: 
Quelle und Meyer, 1929, pp. 230-250; *Herwig Muller, Georg Simmel 
als Deuter jund Fortbildner Kants, Dresden: Dittert, 1935; Thomas 
A. Vannatta, A Study in Polarities in the Writings of George Simmel 
(unpubl. Ph.D. diss.), Columbus: Ohio State University, 1948 (pp. 
163, v). — Art: Utitz. 

Briefly appraising: Ernst Bernhard, “Georg Simmel als Soziologe 
und Sozialphilosoph,“ Die Tat, 5: 1080-1086, January, 1914; *Jonas 
Cohn, in: Deutsches biographisches Jahrbuch, 1917-1920 (Berlin, 
1928), 326-333; Herman Schmalenbach, “Simmel," Sozialistische 
Monatshefte, Vol. 52, Jahrg. 25: 283-288, March 24, 1919 (obituary); 
Aloys Fischer, “Georg Simmel (geb. 1. Marz 1856 [5/c], gest. 27. [sic] 
September 1918)," Deutscher Wille, 32. Jahrgang, 2. Oktoberheft, 
pp. 43-47 (October, 1918; anti-Semitic); Theodor Lessing, “Georg 
Simmel, Betrachtungen und Exkurse" (1912-13), in his: Philosophie 
als Tat, Gottingen: Otto Hapke, 1914, pp. 303-343 (self-and- Jew- 
accusing); Fritz Hoeber, “Georg Simmel, Der Kulturphilosoph 
unserer Zeit," Neue Jahrbiicher fur das klassische Altertum, Ge- 
schichte und deutsche Literatur, 41: 475-477, 1918 (obituary). 

Anecdotal, impressionistic, journalistic: Emil Ludwig, “Simmel 

liv Introduction 

au£ dem Katheder/* Die Schaubuhne, Vol. X, Nr. 15: 411-413, April 
9, 1914 (on the occasion of SimmeFs leaving the University of Berlin, 
after almost thirty years of teaching, for the University of Stras- 
bourg); Theodor Tagger, “Georg Simmel," Die Zukunft, Vol. 
LXXXXIX, Jahrg. XXIII, Nr. 2, pp. 36-41, October 10, 1914 (on 
same occasion); Elias Hurwicz, “Simmel als jiidischer Denker,** Neue 
jiidische Monatshefte, III, Nrs. 9-12, pp. 196-198, February 10-25, 
March 10-25, ^9^9* 

Reminiscent: (Abraham Flexner,) I Remember, the Autobiog- 
raphy of Abraham Flexner, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940, p. 
108 (Berlin student days); J. Loewenberg, “Problematic Realism,** 
in: George P. Adams and Wm. Pepperell Montague, eds., Contem- 
porary American Philosophy: Personal Statements, London: Allen 
and Unwin; New York: Macmillan, 1930, Volume 2, pp. 80-81 (Sim- 
mePs inspiration of the pragmatic element in Loewenberg*s philos- 
ophy); Paul Fechter, Menschen und Zeiten, Begegnungen aus funf 
Jahrzehnten, Giitersloh: Bertelsmann, 1948, pp. 52-56; Marianne 
Weber, Lebenserinnerungen, Bremen: Jobs. Storm, 1948, pp. 375- 
409 (more on Gertrud Simmel, SimmePs wife, than on Simmel him- 


The only bibliography existing to date is Erich Rosenthal and 
Kurt Oberlaender, “Books, Papers, and Essays by Georg Simmel,'* 
American Journal of Sociology, 51: 238-247, November, 1945 (252 
items, not counting ii incomplete and doubtful ones; there are also 
24 items on Simmel). The following items may be added, although 
the list remains incomplete; e.g., various translations of SimmePs 
works (among them into Polish and Spanish), discussion speeches, 
etc., are known to be missing. The items are given in as complete 
a form as is available. Most of them were communicated by Dr. Else 
Simmel from an as yet unpublished bibliography compiled by Kurt 
Gassen (Greifswald) and Michael Landmann (Basel). (Items pre- 
ceded by [*] were not available for inspection at the time of writing.) 

1. *“Humanistische Marchen** (anonymous). Die neue Zeit, No. 
49, 1891-92; (2) *“Etwas vom Spiritismus,** Vorwdrts, July, 1892; (3) 
*“Weltpolitik** (anonymous). Die neue Zeit, No. 32, 1893-94; (4) 
*“Frauenstudium an der Berliner Universitat,** Vossische Zeitung, 
December 21, 1899; (5) ^Review of Joel, Philosophenwege, Die Zeit, 

Introduction Iv 

April 21, 1901; (6) * ‘‘Rodins Plastik und die Geistesrichtung der 
Gegenwart,"' Berliner Tageblatt, September 29, 1902; (7) “De la re- 
ligion au point de vue de la tWorie de la connaissance,'' Bibliotheque 
du Congres International de Philosophie, II, Morale GenSrale, La 
Philosophie de la Paix, Les Soci^tes d* Enseignement Populaire, 
Paris: Colin, 1903, pp. 319-337; (8) *“Das Abendmahl Leonardo da 
Vincis,*' Der Tag, 1905? (9) *“Psychologie der Diskretion," Der Tag, 
September 2-4 (?), 1906; (10) *“Die Zukunft unserer Kultur," Frank- 
furter Zeitung, April 14, 1909; (11) *“Brucke und Tiir," Der Tag, 
September 15, 1909; (12) *“Beitrage zur Philosophie der Geschichte," 
Scientia, Vol. 6, 1909; (13) *“Nietzsches Moral," Der Tag, May 4, 
1911; (14) *‘‘Goethe und die Frauen," St, Petersburger Montagsblatt, 
463, 1912; (15) *‘‘t)ber Takt, Soziologie der Geselligkeit," Frank- 
furter Zeitung, October 22, 1912; (16) *‘‘Goethe und die Jugend," 
Der Tag, October 4, 1914; (17) *‘‘Rembrandt und die Schonheit," 
Vossische Zeitung, December 25, 1914; (18) *‘‘Die Umwertung der 
Werte: Ein Wort an die Wohlhabenden," Frankfurter Zeitung, 
March 5, 1915; (19) *‘‘Individualismens Formen" (Danish), Specta- 
tor, January 28, 1917; (20) ‘‘Eine Fastenpredigt: Von dem Opfer der 
Wohlhabenden," Frankfurter Zeitung, March 18, 1917; (21) *‘‘Panta 
rhei" (anonymous), Simplicissimus, August 28, 1917; (22) *‘‘t)ber 
Verantwortlichkeit," Kalender (?), 1918; (23) ‘‘Aus Georg Simmels 
nachgelassner Mappe ‘Metaphysik* " (intr. Gertrud Simmel), in: 
Aus unbekannten Schriften, Festgabe fur Martin Buber zum 50. 
Geburtstag, Berlin: Schneider, 1928, pp, 221-226; (24) Cultura fern- 
enina y otros ensayos (‘‘Coleccidn Austral," No. 38), Buenos Aires- 
Mexico: Espasa-Calpe Argentina, 1938 (2nd ed., 1939; 3rd ed., 1941, 
PP- 153; contains ‘‘Cultura femenina," ‘‘Filosofia de la coqueteria," 
‘‘Lo masculino y lo femenino," and ‘‘Filosofia de la moda," i.e., the 
second, third, fourth, and sixth essay of Rosenthal-Oberlaender, no. 
252 [the last item in C], tr. by the same translators); (25) a series of 
pseudonymous articles in Die Jugend. 

[c] simmel's major works 

Sociology: Vber sociale Differenzierung, sociologische und psy- 
chologische Untersuchungen (‘‘Staats- und socialwissenschaftliche 
Forschungen," Gustav Schmoller, ed., Zehnter Band, Erstes Heft), 
Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1890, pp. vii, 147 (2nd ed., 1905); 

Ivi Introduction 

Philosophic des Geldes, Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1900 (2nd 
ed., 1907; 3rd ed., 1920; 4th ed., Miinchen und Leipzig, 1922, pp. 
xiv, 585; 5th ed., Miinchen, 1930); Soziologie, Untersuchungen iiber 
die Formen der Vergesellschaftung, Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 
1908 (2nd ed., Miinchen und Leipzig, 1922; 3rd ed., 1923, pp. 578); 
Grundfragen der Soziologie (“Sammlung Goschen,'* No. 101), Berlin 
und Leipzig: de Gruyter, 1917 (2nd ed., 1920, pp. 103). 

Philosophy of History: Die Probleme der Geschichtsphilosophie, 
Fine erkenntnistheoretische Studie, Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 
1892 (2nd rev. ed., 1905; 3rd ed., 1907; 4th ed., Miinchen und Leip- 
zig, 1922; 5th ed., 1923, pp. ix, 229); Das Problem der historischen 
Zeit ('Thilosophische Vortrage veroffentlicht von der Kantgesell- 
schaft,** No. 12), Berlin: Reuther und Reichard, 1916, pp. 31; Vom 
Wesen des historischen Verstehens (“Geschichtliche Abende im 
Zentralinstitut fiir Erziehung und Unterricht, Fiinftes Heft''), Ber- 
lin: Mittler, 1918, pp. 31. 

Ethics: Einleitung in die Moralwissenschaft, eine Kritik der 
ethischen Grundbegriffe, Berlin: Hertz (Besser), Vol. I, 1892, pp. 
viii, 467; Vol. II, 1893, pp. viii, 426 (2nd ed., Stuttgart und Berlin: 
Cotta, 1904; 3rd ed., 1911). 

General Philosophy: Philosophic des Geldes; Kant, Sechzehn 
Vorlesungen gehalten an der Berliner Universitat, Leipzig: Duncker 
und Humblot, 1904 (2nd ed., 1905; 3rd enl. ed., Miinchen und Leip- 
zig, 1913; 4th ed., 1918; 5th ed., 1921; 6th ed., 1924, pp. vi, 266); 
*Kant und Goethe (*‘Die Kultur, Sammlung illustrierter Einzel- 
darstellungen," Cornelius Gurlitt, ed., Vol. X), Berlin: Marquardt, 
1906, pp. 71 (2nd ed., Leipzig: Wolff, 1907; 3rd rev. ed., Kant und 
Goethe; zur Geschichte der modernen Weltanschauung, 1916, pp. 
117; 4th ed., 1918; 5th ed., Miinchen und Leipzig, 1924); Die Religion 
(“Die Gesellschaft, Sammlung sozialpsychologischer Monographien," 
Martin Buber, ed., Vol. II), Frankfurt am Main: Riitten und Loen- 
ing, 1906, pp. 79 (2nd rev. and enl. ed., 1912; 3rd ed. [9.-1 1. Tausend], 
1922); Schopenhauer und Nietzsche, Ein Vortragszyklus, Leipzig: 
Duncker und Humblot, 1907 (2nd ed., Miinchen und Leipzig, 1920; 
3rd ed. [not contained in Rosenthal-Oberlaender], 1923, pp. vii, 
192); Hauptprobleme der Philosophic (“Sammlung Goschen," No. 
500), Leipzig: Goschen, 1910, pp. 175 (2nd ed., 1911; 3rd ed., 1913; 
4th ed., Berlin und Leipzig: de Gruyter, 1917; 5th ed., 1920; 6th ed.. 

Introduction Ivii 

1927); Goethe, Leipzig: Klinkhardt und Biermann, 1913 (4th ed., 
1921; 5th ed., 1923, pp. vii, 264). 

Philosophy of Art: Rembrandt, Ein kunstphilosophischer Ver~ 
such, Leipzig: Wolff, 1916 (2nd ed., 1919, pp. viii, 208). 

Philosophy of Contemporary Civilization: Der Krieg und die 
geistigen Entscheidungen, Reden und Aufsdtze, Miinchen und Leip- 
zig: Duncker und Humblot, 1917, pp. 72 (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1920); 
Der Konfiikt der modernen Kultur, ein Vortrag, ibid,, 1918 (2nd ed., 
1921, pp. 30; 3rd ed., 1926). 

Metaphysics: Lebensanschauung, vier metaphysische Kapitel, 
Miinchen und Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1918 (2nd ed., 1922, 

pp- 239)- 

There also exist several important collections of essays: Philo- 
sophische Kultur, gesammelte Essais (“Philosophisch-soziologische 
Biicherei,*' Vol. XXVII), Leipzig: Kroner, 1911 (2nd enl. ed., 1919, 
pp. 295); Melanges de Philosophic relativiste. Contribution a la cul- 
ture philosophique, tr. Alix Guillain (‘‘Biblioth^que de Philosophie 
contemporaine’*), Paris: Alcan, 1912 pp. vi, 268; Zur Philosophie der 
Kunst, philosophische und kunstphilosophische Aufsdtze (Gertrud 
Simmel, ed.), Potsdam: Kiepenheuer, 1922, pp. 175; Fragmente und 
Aufsdtze aus dem Nachlass und Veroffentlichungen der letzten Jahre- 
(Gertrud Kantorowicz, ed.), Miinchen: Drei Masken Verlag, 1923, 
pp. X, 304; *Cultura femenina y otros ensayos (Eugenio Imaz, Jose 
R. Perez Bances, M. G. Morente, and Fernando Vela, trs.), Madrid: 
Revista de occidente, 1934. 

[d] SIMMEL's writings available in ENGLISH 

The following is as complete a list of SimmePs writings available 
in English as could be obtained (in chronological order of publica- 

(1) “Moral Deficiencies as Determining Intellectual Functions,” 
International Journal of Ethics, III, No. 4, 490-507, July, 1893. Tr. 
not indicated. (“This article is part of the second volume of the 
author's ‘Einleitung in die Moralwissenschaft which is shortly 
to appear. The reader finds here hardly more than a general outline 
of the original article. From want of space, it has been considerably 
shortened without being able to consult the author.”) 

(2) ”The Problem of Sociology,” Annals of the American Acad- 

Iviii Introduction 

emy of Political and Social Science, VI, No. 3, 412-423, November, 
1895. Tr. not indicated. 

(3) “Superiority and Subordination as Subject-Matter of Sociol- 
ogy,“ The American Journal of Sociology, II, No. 2, 167-189, Septem- 
ber, 1896; No. 3, 392-415, November, 1896. Tr. Albion W. Small. 

(4) “The Persistence oLSocial Groups/' ibid,, III, No. 5, 662-698, 
March, 1898; No. 6, 829-836, May, 1898; IV, No. 1, 35-50, July, 1898. 
Tr. Albion W. Small. 

(5) “A Chapter in the Philosophy of Value," ibid,, V, No. 5, 577- 
603, March, 1900. Tr. not indicated. (“A fragment from a volume 
entitled The Philosophy of Money to be published this year by 
Duncker and Humblot, Leipzig. Translated for this journal from 
the author's manuscript.") 

(6) “Tendencies in German Life and Thought Since 1870," In- 
ternational Monthly, V, No. 1, 93-111, January, 1902; No. 2, 166-184, 
February, 1902. Tr. W. D. Briggs. 

(7) “The Number of Members as Determining the Sociological 
Form of the Group," The American Journal of Sociology, VIII, No. 
1, i-46,“july, 1902; No. 2, 158-196, September, 1902. Tr. Albion W. 

(8) “The Sociology of Conflict," ibid,, IX, No. 4, 490-525, Janu- 
ary, 1904; No. 5, 672-689, March, 1904; No. 6, 798-811, May, 1904. 
Tr. Albion W. Small. 

(9) “Fashion," International Quarterly, 10, No. 1, 130-155, Octo- 
ber, 1904. Tr. not indicated. 

(10) “A Contribution to the Sociology of Religion," The Ameri- 
can Journal of Sociology, XI, No. 3, 359-376, November, 1905. Tr. 
W. W. Elwang. 

(1 1) “The Sociology oi Secrecy and of Secret Societies," ibid,, XI, 
No. 4, 441-498, January, 1906. Tr. Albion W. Small. 

(12) “The Problem of Sociology," ibid,, XV, No. 3, 289-320, No- 
vember, 1909. Tr. Albion W. Small. (“This is a portion of the first 
chapter in Simmel's Soziologie, a brief notice of which appeared in 
this Journal, Vol. XIV, p. 544. The translation is as literal as possible. 
The notes, unless otherwise indicated, are my own. — Albion W. 

(13) “How is Society Po^ible?" ibid,, XVI, No. 3, 372-391, No- 
vember, 1910. Tr. Albion W. Small. (“This is a translation of the 
passage entitled, 'Exkurs iiber das Problem: Wie ist Gesellschaft 

Introduction lix 

moglich?' in SimmeFs Soziologie (pp. 27-45). Although I have often 
argued (e.g.. General Sociology, pp. 183-85, 504-8, etc.) that the 
term ‘society* is too vague to be made into an instrument of pre- 
cision, I am glad to assist in getting a hearing for SimmeFs efforts to 
prove the contrary. I have therefore done my best to render his essay 
literally as far as possible, and in all cases faithfully. A.W.S.**) 

(14) In: Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess, Introduction to 
the Science of Sociology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1921: 

(a) 322-327: “The Sociological Significance of the 
‘Stranger*,** from: Simmel, Soziologie, 1908, pp. 685- 

(b) 356-361: “Sociology of the Senses: Visual Interaction,*' 
from: id,, 646-651; 

(c) 552-553: “Money and Freedom,** from: Simmel, P/it 7 - 
osophie des Geldes, 1900, pp. 351-352. 

(These three passages were presumably translated by 
Park and/or Burgess. Numerous other short transla- 
tions contained in the book were taken from several 
of SimmeFs writings listed above.) 

(15) (a) “The Metropolis and Mental Life" [1902-03], Second- 

Year Course in the Study of Contemporary Society 

• (Social Science II), Syllabus and Selected Readings 
(5th ed. [and subsequent eds.], Chicago: University of 
Chicago Bookstore, September, 1936, pp. 221-238. Tr. 
Edward A. Shils. 

(b) Id,, Department of Sociology, The University of Wis- 
consin, n.d,, mimeographed, pp. 10. Tr. H. H. Gerth 
with the assistance of C. Wright Mills. (Used as Part 
V, Ch. 4, below.) 

(16) “The Sociology of Sociability," The American Journal of 
Sociology, LV, No. 3, 254-261, November, 1949. Tr. Everett C. 
Hughes. (The original, of 1910, is an earlier version of the original 
rendered as Part I, Ch. 3, below.) 


The following is, at least, the beginning of an alphabetical list 
of discussions in English, most of them short, of Simmel as (wholly 
or in part) a sociologist. (Book reviews are not included.) 

lx Introduction 

(1) Theodore Abel (see A). Next to Spykman's, this is the most 
comprehensive treatment. 

(2) S. P. Altmann, ‘‘SimmePs Philosophy of Money/' American 
Journal of Sociology, 9: 46-68, 1903. 

(3) Harry Elmer Barnes and Howard Becker, Social Thought 
from Lore to Science, Boston: Heath [1938], Vol. II, 889-891. 

(4) Arthur F. Bentley, The Process of Government, A Study of 
Social Pressures, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1908, pp. 

(5) » Relativity in Man and Society, New York: Putnam; 

London: Knickerbocker, 1926, pp. 163-165, 306-310. 

(6) — , “Simmel, Durkheim, and Ratzenhofer," American 

Journal of Sociology, 32: 250-256, 1926. (Cf. Ch. XX in preceding 

(7) Rudolf Heberle (see A). 

(8) Floyd Nelson House, The Development of Sociology, New 
York and London: McGraw-Hill, 1936, pp. 386-390. 

^g) ^ xhe Range of Social Theory, a Survey of the Develop- 

ment. Literature, Tendencies and Fundamental Problems of the 
Social Sciences, New York: Holt, 1929. (Consult index.) 

(10) Albert Salomon, “German Sociology," 586-614, in: Georges 
Gurvitch and Wilbert E. Moore, eds., Twentieth Century Sociology, 
New York: Philosophical Library, 1945, pp. 604-609. 

(11) Pitirim Sorokin (see A). 

(12) Nicholas J. Spykman (see A). 

(13) A. Vierkandt, “Simmel, Georg," Encyclopaedia of the Social 
Sciences, 14: 61. 

(14) Wiese-Becker (see n. 32 above), esp. 705-708. 

Among more recent American sociology texts, the following (in 
chronological order) refer to Simmel more than bibliographically 
(consult indices): R. M. Maciver, Society: A Textbook of Sociology, 
New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937 (also: Maciver, Community, 
a Sociological Study, London: Macmillan, 1917; Maciver and Charles 
H. Page, Society: An Introductory Analysis, New York; Rinehart, 
1949); Kimball Young, An Introductory Sociology, New York: Amer- 
ican Book, 1939; Sociology: A Study of Society and Culture, ibid,, 
1942 (see also his Social Psychology, New York: Crofts, 1944); John 
Lewis Gillin and John Philip Gillin, An Introduction to Sociology, 
New York: Macmillan, 1942; E. T. Hiller, Social Relations and 

Introduction Ixi 

Structures, A Study in Principles of Sociology, New York and Lon- 
don: Harper, 1947; Pitirim A. Sorokin, Society, Culture, and Per- 
sonality: Their Structure and Dynamics, New York and London: 
Harper, 1947; John W. Bennett and Melvin M. Tumin, Social Life: 
Structure and Function, New York: Knopf, 1948; Kingsley Davis, 
Human Society, New York: Macmillan, 1949. 


(1) Georg Simmel, Grundfragen der Soziologie {Individuum und 
Gesellschaft) (“Sammlung Goschen,*' No. 101), Berlin und Leipzig: 
Vereingung wissenschaftlicher Verleger, Walter de Gruyter 8c Co., 
1917, pp. 103. For the translation, the second edition (identical with 
the first), of 1920, was used. The four chapters of this work have the 
following original titles: “Das Gebiet der Soziologie,"' “Das soziale 
und das individuelle Niveau (Beispiel der Allgemeinen Soziologie),” 
“Die Geselligkeit (Beispiel der Reinen oder Formalen Soziologie),” 
and “Individuum und Gesellschaft in Lebensanschauungen des 18. 
und 19. Jahrhunderts (Beispiel der Philosophischen Soziologie)."* 

(2) Georg Simmel, Soziologie, Untersuchungen iiber die Formen 
der Vergesellschaftung (Sociology, Studies of the Forms of Societaliza- 
tion), Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker 8c Humblot, 1908, pp. 782. For 
the translation, the third, revised edition of 1923 (pp. 578) was used. 
The following table of contents is supplemented by translations of 
headings and by information concerning available translations or 
their non-existence. Titles of portions contained in the present vol- 
ume are printed in capital letters. 

I. Das Problem der Soziologie (The Problem of Sociology, pp. 
1-31). For translation, see D, no. 12. 

Exkurs iiber das Problem: wie ist Gesellschaft moglich? (Note on 
the Problem: How Is Society Possible? Pp. 21-30). For translation, 
see D, no. 13. 

(The Quantitative Determinateness of the Group, pp. 32-100), tr. as 
Part II of the present volume. For translation of an earlier and 
shorter draft, see D, no. 7. (For a summary, see Spykman, Book II, 
Ch. III.) 

III. UBER- UND UNTERORDNUNG (Superordination and 
Subordination, pp. 101-185), tr. as Part III of the present volume. 

Ixii Introduction 

For translation of an earlier and much shorter draft, see D, no. 3. 
(Cf. Spykman, Book II, Ch. I.) 

ting, pp. 142-147), tr. as Part III, Gh. 3, Sect. 5. Not previously trans- 

IV. Der Streit (Conflict, pp. 186-255). translation of an earlier 
and shorter draft, see D, no. 8. (Cf. Spykman, Book II, Ch. 11 .) 

(The Secret and the Secret Society, pp. 257-304), tr. as Part IV of the 
present volume. For translation of an earlier and shorter draft, see 
D, no. 11. 

EXKURS UBER DEN SCHMUCK (Note on Adornment, pp. 
278-281), tr. as Part IV, Ch. 3, Sect. 5. Not previously translated. 

on Written Communication, pp. 287-288), tr. as Part IV, Ch. 4, Sect. 
3. Not previously translated. 

VI. Die Kreuzung sozialer Kreise (The Intersection of Social 
Circles, pp. 305-344). No translation existing. (Cf. Spykman, Book 
II, Ch. VI.) 

VII. Der Arme (The Poor, pp. 345-374). No translation existing. 

HALTUNGSWEISEN (Note on the Negativity of Collective Modes 
of Behavior, pp. 359-362), tr. as Part V, Ch. 2. Not previously trans- 

VIII. Die Selbsterhaltung der sozialen Gruppe (The Self-Preser- 
vation of the Social Group, pp. 375-459). For translation of an earlier 
and much shorter draft, see D, no. 4. (Cf. Spykman, Book II, Ch. V.) 

Exkurs iiber das Erbamt (Note on Hereditary Office, pp. 391-396). 
No translation existing. 

Exkurs fiber Sozialpsychologie (Note on Social Psychology, pp. 
421-425). No translation existing. 

Faithfulness and Gratitude, pp. 438-447), tr. as Part V, Ch. 1. Not 
previously translated. 

IX. Der Raum und die raumlichen Ordnungen der Gesellschaft 
(Space and the Spatial Organization of Society, pp. 460-526). No 
translation existing. (Cf. Spykman, Book II, Ch. IV.) 

Introduction Ixiii 

Exkurs liber die soziale Begrenzung (Note on Social Delimitation, 
pp. 467-470). No translation existing. 

Exkurs liber die Soziologie der Sinne (Note on the Sociology of 
the Senses, pp. 483-493). For a partial translation, see D, no. 14b. 

EXKURS UBER DEN FREMDEN (Note on the Stranger, pp. 
509-512), tr. as Part V, Ch. 3. For an earlier translation, see D, No. 
14a, above. 

X. Die Erweiterung der Gruppe und die Ausbildung der Individ- 
ualitat (The Enlargement of the Group and the Development of 
Individuality, pp. 527-573). No translation existing. (Cf. Spykman, 
Book II, Ch. VII.) 

Exkurs liber den Adel (Note on Nobility, pp. 545-552). No trans- 
lation existing. 

Exkurs liber die Analogie der individualpsychologischen und 
der soziologischen Verhaltnisse (Note on the Analogy of Individual- 
Psychological and Sociological Conditions, pp. 565-568). No transla- 
tion existing. 

(3) Georg Simmel, “Die Grossstadte und das Geistesleben“ (The 
Large Cities [Metropoles] and Intellectual [Mental] Life), pp. 185- 
206, in: Die Grossstadt, Vortrage und Aufsatze zur Stadteausstellung 
von K, Bucher, F. Ratzel, G. v. Mayr, H. Waentig, G. Simmel, Th. 
Petermanir und D. Schafer. Gehe-Stiftung zu Dresden, Winter 1902- 
1903. Jahrbuch der Gehe-Stiftung zu Dresden. Band IX. Dresden: 
V. Zahn 8c Jaensch, 1903. For the translation used in the present vol- 
ume, see D, no. 15b; for another translation, see D, no. 15a. 


With the exception of the last chapter (cf. F, no. 3), all transla- 
tions were made by the present writer. The attempt at utilizing ex- 
tant renditions was abandoned, after some experimentation, as im- 
practicable. The key term **Vergesellschaftung/* misleadingly ren- 
dered as “socialization" by Small (cf. D) and Spykman, and literally 
as “societalization" by Abel, has consistently been translated as “so- 
ciation." A precedent for this is Wiese-Becker; see esp. p. 10, n. 11, 
and pp. 113-114 and n. 6, on the different referents of their and Stuck- 
enberg's “sociation," a term coined by the latter. (On this coinage, in 
J. H. W. Stuckenberg, Introduction to the Study of Sociology, 1898, 
pp. 126-127, cf. Barnes, ed., An Introduction to the History of SocioU 

Ixiv Introduction 

ogy, 806.) The other key term, *'Wechselwirkung/' literally “recipro- 
cal effect, “ has been found to have in “interaction" its contextually 
closest English equivalent, and has thus been translated throughout 
the volume. The only place where this translation has been found 
before is Bentley, Relativity in Man and Society, 353. 

One of the most tangible changes wrought on Simmel's text is its 
breakup into more manageable portions. The original sentences, 
paragraphs, and chapters are considerably longer than are those of 
this translation. Most sentences and paragraphs were broken up, 
and most headings were added. Only those of the following portions 
of the book are Simmel’s own: Parts I, II, III, IV; all chapters in 
Parts I and V; Part II, Ch. 4, Sects. 2, 3, 4; Part III, Ch. 3, Sect. 5; 
Part IV, Ch. 3, Sect. 5, and Ch. 4, Sect. 3. 

In their “Preface" to From Max Weber, Gerth and Mills give an 
excellent account of their translation. The interested reader is in- 
vited to inspect that preface, thinking of Simmel rather than of 
Weber, in order to have a fairly accurate idea of the English, in its 
relation to the original German, that he finds in the following pages. 

The Sociology of Georg Simmel 

Part One 

Fundamental Problems 
of Sociology 

Individual and Society 

Chapter 1 

The Field 
of Sociology 


which arises if one wants to make a tenable statement about the 
science of sociology is that its claim to be a science is not undis- 
puted. Further, there is a chaotic multitude of opinions concern- 
ing its contents and aims. There are so many contradictions and 
confusions, that one doubts again and again whether one deals 
with a scientifically justifiable problem at all here. The lack of 
an undisputed and clear definition would not be so bad if it 
were made up for by the existence of a certain number of specific 
problems which are not, or not exhaustively, treated in other 
disciplines and which contain the fact or concept of “society*' 
as their common element and point of contact. They might be 
too different from one another in content, orientation, and 
method of solution to be treated as if they amounted to a homo- 
geneous field of inquiry. Yet even then, they could at least find 
a preliminary refuge under the heading of “sociology”; at least 
superficially, it would be clear where to look for them. In such 
a scheme, sociology would resemble technology, a tag quite legiti- 
mately attached to an immense range of tasks whose understand- 
ing and solution are not too greatly helped by the suggestion 
(through the name “technology”) that they have some feature 
in common. 

§ 1 . Society and Knowledge of Society 

Such a tenuous tie among heterogeneous problems might hold 
out the promise of their unity at a deeper level. Yet even this 
tenuous tie appears impossible because of the problematic char- 


4 The Field of Sociology 

acter of the only concept that holds these problems together — 
‘"society.” In fact, all existing denials of the possibility of sociol- 
ogy as a science arise on the basis of this problematic character. 
It is remarkable that the denials either minimize or exaggerate 
this concept. Existence, we hear, is an exclusive attribute of 
individuals, their qualities and experiences. “Society,” by con- 
trast, is an abstraction. Although indispensable for practical pur- 
poses and certainly very useful for a rough and preliminary sur- 
vey of the phenomena that surround us, it is no real object. It 
does not exist outside and in addition to the individuals and the 
processes among them. After each of these individuals is investi- 
gated in his natural and historical characteristics, nothing is left 
by way of subject matter for a particular science. 

For this sort of critique, “society,” obviously, is too slight 
a matter to constitute a field of science. For another kind of 
critique, however, it is too big: for on the other hand it is said 
all that men are and do occurs within society, is determined by 
society, and is part of its life; there is no science of man that is 
not science of society. The science of society thus ought to replace 
the artificially compartmentalized special disciplines, historical, 
psychological, and normative. It ought to make it evident that 
it is sociation which synthesizes all human interests, contents, and 
processes into concrete units. But, obviously, this definition, 
which wants to give sociology everything, takes as much away 
from it as did the first conception that left it nothing. For juris- 
prudence and philology, political science and literary criticism, 
psychology and theology, and all the other disciplines that have 
divided up the study of human life among themselves, will cer- 
tainly continue to exist. Nothing is gained by throwing their sum 
total into a pot and sticking a new label on it: “sociology.” 

The trouble is that the science of society, in contrast to other 
sciences that are well established, is in the unfortunate position 
of still having to prove its right to exist. Yet this is fortunate, too, 
for sociology's struggle for existence is bound to lead to a clarifi- 
cation of its basic concepts (which is good and necessary in itself) 
and to the establishment of its specific manner of investigating 

Let us grant for the moment that only individuals “really” 
exist. Even then, only a false conception of science could infer 

Society and Knowledge of Society 5 

from this “fact'* that any knowledge which somehow aims at 
synthesizing these individuals deals with merely speculative ab- 
stractions and unrealities. Quite on the contrary, human thought 
always and everywhere synthesizes the given into units that 
serve as subject matters of the sciences. They have no counterpart 
whatever in immediate reality. Nobody, for instance, hesitates 
to talk of the development of the Gothic style. Yet nowhere is 
there such a thing as “Gothic style," whose existence could be 
shown. Instead, there are particular works of art which along 
with individual elements, also contain stylistic elements; and the 
two cannot be clearly separated. The Gothic style as a topic of 
historical knowledge is an intellectual phenomenon. It is ab- 
stracted from reality; it is not itself a given reality. Innumerable 
times, we do not even want to know how individual things be- 
have in all detail: we form new units out of them. When we 
inquire into the Gothic style, its laws, its development, we do not 
describe any particular cathedral or palace. Yet the material that 
makes up the unit we are investigating — “Gothic style" — we gain 
only from a study of the details of cathedrals and palaces. Or, we 
ask how the “Greeks" and the “Persians" behaved in the battle 
of Marathon. If it were true that only individuals are “real," 
historical cognition would reach its goal only if it included the 
behavior ofxeach individual Greek and each individual ‘Persian*' 
If we knew his whole life history, we could psychologically under- 
stand his behavior during the battle. Yet even if we could manage 
to satisfy such a fantastic claim, we would not have solved our 
problem at all. For this problem does not concern this or that 
individual Greek or Persian; it concerns all of them. The notion, 
“the Greeks" and “the Persians," evidently constitutes a'^totally 
different phenomenon, which results from a certain intellectual 
synthesis, not from the observation of isolated individuals. To be 
sure, each of these individuals was led to behave as he did by a 
development which is somehow different from that of every other 
individual. In reality, none of them behaved precisely like any 
other. And, in no one individual, is what he shares with others 
clearly separable from what distinguishes him from others. Both 
aspects, rather, form the inseparable unity of his personal life. 
Yet in spite of all this, out of all these individuals we form the 
more comprehensive units, “the Greeks" and “the Persians." 

6 The Field of Sociology 

Even a moment’s reflection shows that similar concepts con- 
stantly supersede individual existences. If we were to rob our 
cognition of all such intellectual syntheses because only indi- 
viduals are “real,” we would deprive human knowledge of its 
least dubious and most legitimate contents. The stubborn asser- 
tion that after all there exist nothing but individuals which 
alone, therefore, are the concrete objects of science, cannot pre- 
vent us from speaking of the histories of Catholicism and Social 
Democracy, of cities, and of political territories, of the feminist 
movement, of the conditions of craftsmen, and of thousands of 
other synthetic events and collective phenomena — and, there- 
fore, of society in general. It certainly is an abstract concept. But 
each of the innumerable articulations and arrangements covered 
by it is an object that can be investigated and is worth investiga- 
tion. And none of them consists of individual existences that are 
observed in all their details. 

This whole consideration, however, might be due, simply, to 
an imperfect grasp of the matter at issue. It might merely be a 
(perhaps) necessary preliminary that would, potentially or ac- 
tually, be overcome by a more intimate knowledge of the indi- 
viduals as the ultimately concrete elements. Yet if we examine 
“individuals” more closely, we realize that they are by no means 
such ultimate elements or “atoms’*, of the human world. For the 
unit denoted by the concept “individual” (and which, as a matter 
of fact, perhaps is insoluble, as we shall see later) is not an object 
of cognition at all, but only of experience. The way in which 
each of us, in himself and in others, knows of this unit, cannot 
be compared to any other way of knowing. What we know about 
man scientifically is only single characteristics. They may exist 
once, or they may stand in a relation of reciprocal influence to one 
another; but each of them requires its special investigation and 
derivation, which leads to innumerable influences of the physi- 
cal, cultural, personal environment — influences that come from 
everywhere and extend infinitely in time. Only by isolating and 
grasping them and by reducing them to increasingly simple, 
covert and remote elements do we approach what is really “ulti- 
mate,” that is, what is^real in the rigorous sense of the word. Thi.® 
“real” alone must’ form the basis ior any higher intellectual syn 
thesis. Color molecules, letters, particles of water indeed “exist” 

Society and Knowledge of Society 7 

but the painting, the book, the river are syntheses: they are units 
that do not exist in objective reality but only in the consciousness 
which constitutes them.\But what is more, even these so-called 
elements are highly synthetic phenomena. It is, therefore, not 
true that reality can be attributed only to properly ultimate units, ' 
and not to phenomena in which these units find their forms. Any 
form (and a form always is a synthesis) is something added by a 
synthesizing subject. Thus, a conception that considers only in- 
dividuals as “real” lets' what should be considered real get out of 
hand. It is perfectly arbitrary to stop the reduction, which leads 
to ultimately real elements, at the individual. For this reduction 
is interminable. In it, the individual appears as a composite of 
single qualities, and destinies, forces and historical derivations, 
which in comparison to the individual himself have the same 
character of elementary realities as do the individuals in compari- 
son to society. 

In other words, the alleged realism that performs this sort of 
critique of the concept of society, and thus of sociology, actually 
eliminates all knowable reality. It relegates it into the infinite 
and looks for it in the realm of the inscrutable. As a matter of 
fact, coglfltion must be conceived on the basis of an entirely 
different structural principle. This principle is the abstraction, 
from a given complex of phenomena, of a number of hetero- 
geneous objects of cognition that are nevertheless recognized as 
equally definitive and consistent. The principle may be expressed 
by the symbol of different distances between such a complex of 
phenomena and the human mind. We obtain different pictures 
of an object when we see it at a distance of two, or of five, or of 
ten yards. At each distance, however, the picture is “correct” in 
its particular way and only in this way. And the different distance 
also provides different margins for error. For instance, if the 
minute detail of a painting that we gain at very close range were 
injected into a perspective gained at a distance of several yards, 
this perspective would be utterly confused and falsified. And yet 
on the basis of a superficial conception, one might assert that the 
detailed view is “truer” than the more distant view. But even 
this detailed perception involves some distance whose lower limit 
is, in fact, impossible to determine. All we can say is that a view 
gained at any distance whatever has its own justification. It can- 

8 The Field of Sociology 

not be replaced or corrected by any other view emerging at an- 
other distance. 

In a similar way, when we look at human life from a certain 
distance, we see each individual in his precise differentiation 
from all others. But if we increase our distance, the single indi- 
vidual disappears, and there emerges, instead, the picture of a 
“society'* with its own forms and colors — a picture which has its 
own possibilities of being recognized or missed. It is certainly no 
less justified than is the other in which the parts, the individuals, 
are seen in their differentiation. Nor is it by any means a mere 
preliminary of it. The difference between the two merely con- 
sists in the difference between purposes of cognition; and this 
difference, in turn, corresponds to a difference in distance. 

The right to sociological study thus is not in the least en- 
dangered by the circumstance that all real happenings only occur 
in individuals. Yet the independence of sociology from this cir- 
cumstance can be argued even more radically. For it is not true 
that the cognition of series of individual occurrences grasps 
immediate reality. This reality, rather, is given to us as a complex 
of images, as a surface of contiguous phenomena. We articulate 
this datum — ^which is our only truly primary datum — into some- 
thing like the destinies of individuals. Or we reduce its simple 
matter-of-factness to single elements that are designed to catch it 
as if they were its nodal points. Clearly, in either case there occurs 
a process which we inject into reality, an ex-post-facto intellectual 
transformation of the immediately given reality. Because of con- 
stant habit, we achieve this almost automatically. We almost 
think it is no transformation at all, but something given in the 
natural order of things. Actually, this transformation is exactly 
as subjective — but also, since it yields valid cognition, exactly 
as objective — as is the synthesis of the given under the category 
of society. Only the particular purpose of cognition determines 
whether reality, as it emerges or is experienced in its immediacy, 
is to be investigated in a personal or in a collective frame of 
reference. Both frames of reference, equally, are “standpoints." 
Their relation to one another is not that of reality to abstraction. 
Rather, since both are interpretations, though different ones, 
both are detached from “reality," which itself cannot be the im- 
mediate subject matter of science. It becomes amenable to 

Society and Knowledge of Society 9 

cognition only by means of categories such as, for instance, 
'‘individual,” or “society.” 

Nor is the concept of society invalidated by the fact that, if 
we look at it from still another angle, we must admit that human 
existence is real only in individuals. If the concept “society” is 
taken in its most general sense, it refers to the psychological 
interaction among individual human beings. This definition 
must not be jeopardized by the difficulties offered by certain 
marginal phenomena. Thus, two people who for a moment look 
at one another or who collide in front of a ticket window, should 
not on these grounds be called sociated. Yet even here, where 
interaction is so superficial and momentary, one could speak, 
with some justification, of sociation. One has only to remember 
that interactions of this sort merely need become more frequent 
and intensive and join other similar ones to deserve properly the 
name of sociation. It is only a superficial attachment to linguistic 
usage (a usage quite adequate for daily practice) which makes us 
want to reserve the term “society” for permanent interactions 
only. More specifically, the interactions we have in mind when 
we talk about “society” are crystallized as definable, consistent 
structures such as the state and the family, the guild and the 
church, social classes and organizations based on common 

But in addition to these, there exists an immeasurable num- 
ber of less conspicuous forms of relationship and kinds of inter- 
action. Taken singly, they may appear negligible. But since in 
actuality they are inserted into the comprehensive and, as it were, 
official social formations, they alone produce society as we know 
it. To confine ourselves to the large social formations resembles 
the older science of anatomy with its limitation to the major, 
definitely circumscribed organs such as heart, liver, lungs, and 
stomach, and with its neglect of the innumerable, popularly un- 
named or unknown tissues. Yet without these, the more obvious 
organs could never constitute a living organism. On the basis of 
the major social formations — the traditional subject matter of 
social science — it would be similarly impossible to piece together 
the real life of society as we encounter it in our experience. With- 
out the interspersed effects of countless minor syntheses, society 
would break up into a multitude of discontinuous systems. Socia- 

10 The Field of Sociology 

tion continuously emerges and ceases and emerges again. Even 
where its eternal flux and pulsation are not sufficiently strong to 
form organizations proper, they link individuals together. That 
people look at one another and are jealous of one another; that 
they exchange letters or dine together; that irrespective of all 
tangible interests they strike one another as pleasant or un- 
pleasant; that gratitude for altruistic acts makes for inseparable 
union; that one asks another man after a certain street, and that 
people dress and adorn themselves for one another — the whole 
gamut of relations that play from one person to another and that 
may be momentary or permanent, conscious or unconscious, 
ephemeral or of grave consequence (and from which these illus- 
trations are quite casually chosen), all these incessantly tie men 
together. Here are the interactions among the atoms of society. 
They account for all the toughness and elasticity, all the 
color and consistency of social life, that is so striking and yet so 

The large systems and the super-individual organizations that 
customarily come to mind when we think of society, are nothing 
but immediate interactions that occur among men constantly, 
every minute, but that have become crystallized as permanent 
fields, as autonomous phenomena. As they crystallize, they attain 
their own existence and their own laws, and may even confront 
or oppose spontaneous interaction itself. At the same time, so- 
ciety, as its life is constantly being realized, always signifies that 
individuals are connected by mutual influence and determina- 
tion. It is, hence, something functional, something individuals 
do and suffer. To be true to this fundamental character of it, 
one should properly speak, not of society, but of sociation. So- 
ciety merely is the name for a number of individuals, connected 
by interaction. It is because of their interaction that they are 
a unit — ^just as a system of bodily masses is a unit whose reciprocal 
effects wholly determine their mutual behavior. One may, of 
course, insist that only these masses are true “realities,** and that 
their mutually stimulated movements and modifications are 
something intangible, and thus only secondary realities, so to 
speak, for they have their locus only in the concrete bodies them- 
selves. The so-called unit merely is the synopsis of these ma- 
terially separated existences: after all, the impulses and forma- 

The Abstract Character of Sociology 11 

tions they receive and produce remain in them. In the same 
sense one may insist that ultimately it is the human individuals 
that are the true realities. But this adds nothing to our argument. 
In accordance with it, society certainly is not a ‘‘substance,” noth- 
ing concrete, but an event: it is the function of receiving and 
effecting the fate and development of one individual by the 
other. Groping for the tangible, we find only individuals; and 
between them, only a vacuum, as it were. Later, we shall consider 
the consequences of this conception. At any rate, if it leaves 
‘‘existence” (more strictly speaking) only to individuals, it must 
nevertheless accept the process and the dynamics of acting and 
suffering, by which the individuals modify one another, as some- 
thing ‘‘real” and explorable. 

§ 2 . The Abstract Character of Sociology 

Under the guidance of its particular conception, any science 
extracts only one group or aspect out of the totality or experi- 
enced immediacy of phenomena. Sociology does so, too. It acts 
no less legitimately than does any other science if it analyzes 
individual existences and recomposes them in the light of its 
own conception. Sociology asks what happens to men and by 
what rules they behave, not insofar as they unfold their under- 
standable individual existences in their totalities, but insofar 
as they form groups and are determined by their group existence 
because of interaction. It treats the history of marriage without 
analyzing particular couples; the principle underlying the or- 
ganization of offices, without describing a ‘‘typical day” at a 
particular office; the laws and consequences of the class struggle, 
without dealing with the development of a particular strike or of 
particular wage negotiations. The topics of its researches cer- 
tainly arise in a process of abstraction. But this feature does not 
distinguish sociology from such sciences as logic or economic 
theory. They, too, under the guidance of certain conceptions 
(such as cognition and economics, respectively), produce, out of 
reality, interrelated phenomena that do not exist as something 
experienceable but whose laws and evolution they discover. 

Sociology thus is founded upon an abstraction from con- 
crete reality, performed under the guidance of the concept of 

12 The Field of Sociology 

society. We have already noted the invalidity of the accusation 
of unreality, which was derived from the assertion of the exclu- 
sive reality of individuals. But this realization also protects our 
discipline from the exaggeration that I have mentioned, earlier, 
as an equally grave danger for its existence as a science. To 
repeat: since man in all aspects of his life and action is determined 
by the fact that he is a social being, all sciences of him are re- 
duced to parts of the science of social life. All subject matters of 
these sciences are nothing more than particular channels, as it 
were, in which social life, the only bearer of all energy and of 
all significance, flows. I have shown that all this conception does 
is to yield a new common name for all the branches of knowledge 
that will continue to exist anyway, unperturbed and autono- 
mous, with all their specific contents and nomenclatures, tenden- 
cies and methods. Nevertheless, this erroneous exaggeration of 
the concepts “society” and “sociology” is based upon a fact of 
great significance and consequence. For, the recognition that 
man in his whole nature and in all his manifestations is de- 
termined by the circumstance of living in interaction with other 
men, is bound to lead to a new viewpoint that must make itself 
felt in all so-called human studies.^ 

As recent a period as the eighteenth century explained the 
great contents of historical life — language, religion, the forma- 
tion of states, material culture — essentially, as inventions of single 
individuals. Where the reason and interests of the individual 
were not adequate explanations, transcendental forces were re- 
sorted to. The “genius” of the single inventor, incidentally, 
served as a link between the two explanatory principles: it sug- 
gested that the known and understandable forces of the indi- 
vidual did not suffice to produce the phenomenon in question. 
Thus, language was either the invention of individuals or a 
divine gift; religion (as a historical event), the invention of 
shrewd priests or divine will; moral laws were either inculcated 
into the mass by heroes or bestowed by God, or were given to 
man by “nature,” a no less mystical hypostasis. These two insuffi- 

1 **Geist€sxvissenschaften/* Unless otherwise indicated, this term will always be 
rendered as “human studies,’* a usage which follows Hodges. (Cf. H. A. Hodges, 
Wilhelm Dilthey: An Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, 1944, esp. 

p. 157.)— Tr. 

Sociology as a Method 13 

cient alternatives were replaced by the notion of societal produc- 
tion, according to which all these phenomena emerge in inter- 
actions among men, or sometimes, indeed, are such interactions. 
They cannot be derived from the individual considered in iso- 
lation. In addition to the two earlier possibilities, therefore, we 
now have a third: the production of phenomena through social 
life. This production occurs in a twofold manner. In the first 
place, there is the simultaneity of interacting individuals which 
in each produces what cannot be explained on the basis of him 
alone. In the second place, there is the succession of generations. 
The inheritance and tradition of this succession inseparably fuse 
with the acquisitions made by the individual himself: social man, 
in contrast to all subhuman animals, is not only a successor but 
also an heir. 

§ 3 . Sociology as a Method 

The notion of societal production lies, as it were, somewhere 
between the notions of purely individual and transcendental 
production. It has provided all human studies with a genetic 
method, with a new tool for the solution of their problems, 
whether they^concern the state or church organization, language 
or moral conditions./Sociology thus is not only a science with its 
own subject matter that is differentiated, by division of labor, 
from the subject matters of all other sciences^ It also has become 
a method of the historical disciplines and of the human studies 
in general/ Yet in order to use it, these sciences by no means need 
abandon their own particular viewpoints. They need not be- 
come mere parts of sociology, as that fantastic exaggeration of its 
idea, which I mentioned earlier, would make us believe. Rather, 
sociology adapts itself to each specific discipline — economics, 
history of culture, ethics, theology^ or what not. In this respect, 
it is essentially like induction. At its time, induction, as a new 
principle of investigation, penetrated into all kinds of problem 
areas. It thus contributed new solutions for tasks well established 
in these areas. The parallel suggests that sociology is no more 
a special science than induction is (and surely, it is not an all- 
embracing science). Insofar as it is based on the notions that man 
must be understood as a social animal and that society is the 

14 The Field of Sociology 

medium of all historical events, sociology contains no subject 
matter that is not already treated in one of the extant sciences. 
It only opens up a new avenue for all of them. It supplies them 
with a scientific method which, precisely because of its applica- 
bility to all problems, is not a science with its own content.^ 

In its very generality, this method is apt to form a common 
basis for problem areas that previously, in the absence of their 
mutual contact, lacked a certain clarity. The universality of 
sociation, which makes for the reciprocal shaping of the indi- 
viduals, has its correspondence in the singleness of the sociologi- 
cal way of cognition. The sociological approach yields possi- 
bilities of solution or of deeper study which may be derived from 
fields of knowledge contentually quite different (perhaps) from 
the field of the particular problem under investigation. I will 
mention three examples, which range from the most specific to 
the most general. 

(1) The criminologist may learn much concerning the nature 
of so-called mass crimes from a sociological investigation of the 
psychology of the theatre audience. For here, the stimulus of a 
collective-impulsive behavior can still be clearly ascertained. 
Furthermore, this behavior occurs in the sphere of art which, 
as it were, is abstract and precisely delimited. Thus here — and 
this is very important for the problem of guilt in regard to “mass 
crimes” — the extent to which the individual can be determined 
by a mass in physical proximity with him, and the extent to 
which subjective and objective value judgments can be elimi- 
nated under the impact of contagion, may be observed under 
conditions that are as purely experimental and crucial as scarcely 
anywhere else. 

( 2 ) The student of religion is often inclined to explain the 
life of the religious community and its readiness to sacrifice in 
terms of their devotion to an ideal that is common to all mem- 
bers. He may tend to ascribe the conduct of life, inspired as it is 
by the hope in a perfect state beyond the lives of the existing in- 
dividuals, to the strength in content of the religious faith. Yet 

2 These last and some later sentences are taken from my larger work, Soziologie: 
Untersuchungen uber die Formen der Vergesellschaftung (1908) [Sociology: Studies 
in the Forms of Sociation], which treats some of the thoughts sketched here in 
greater detail and, particularly, with more thorough historical documentation. 

Sociology as a Method 15 

the members of a Social-Democratic labor union may exhibit the 
same traits in their common and mutual behavior. If the student 
of religion notes this similarity, he may learn that religious be- 
havior does not exclusively depend on religious contents, but 
that it is a generally human form of behavior which is realized 
under the stimulus not only of transcendental objects but also 
of other motivations. He will also gain insight into something 
even more important to him. This is the fact that, even in its 
autonomy, religious life contains elements that are not specifically 
religious, but social. Certainly, these elements — particular kinds 
of reciprocal attitude and behavior — are fused organically with 
the religious mood itself. But only when they are isolated by 
means of the sociological method, will they show what within 
the whole complex of religious behavior may legitimately be 
considered purely religious, that is, independent of anything 

( 3 ) I will give one last example of the mutual fertilization 
of problem areas that is suggested by the common involvement 
of human sociation in all of them. The contemporary student 
of political or cultural history is often inclined, for instance, to 
derive the character of the domestic policy pursued by a given 
country from its economic conditions and processes as sufficient 
causes. Suppose he explains the strong individualism of early 
Italian Renaissance political constitutions as the effect of the 
liberation of economic life from guild and church ties. Here it is 
an observation of the historian of art that may greatly qualify 
his conception. The observation is that already in the beginning 
of the epoch under discussion there was an immense spread of 
naturalistic and individualistic portrait busts. Thus the general 
attention appears to have shifted from what men have in com- 
mon (and what therefore can easily be relegated into somewhat 
more abstract and ideal spheres) to what must be left to the 
individual. Attention is focused on the significance of personal 
strength; the concrete is preferred to the general law that is 
valid “on the whole.” And this discovery suggests that the ob- 
served economic individualism is the manifestation of a funda- 
mental sociological change which has found its expression in the 
fields of art and politics as well. It suggests that none of these 
immediately caused the other. 

16 The Field of Sociology 

Perhaps, in fact, sociological analyses of this sort are apt 
quite generally to point the way toward a conception of history 
which is more profound than historical materialism, and which 
may even supersede it. Historical changes, at their properly effec- 
tive level, are possibly changes in sociological forms. It is per- 
haps the way in which individuals and groups behave toward 
one another; in which the individual behaves toward his group; 
in which value accents, accumulations, prerogatives, and similar 
phenomena shift among the elements of society — perhaps it is 
these things which make for truly epochal events. And if eco- 
nomics seems to determine all the other areas of culture, the 
truth behind this tempting appearance would seem to be that 
it itself is determined — determined by sociological shifts which 
similarly shape all other cultural phenomena. Thus, the form 
of economics, too, is merely a ''superstructure§ ** on top of the 
conditions and transformations in the purely sociological struc- 
ture. And this sociological structure is the ultimate historical 
element which is bound to determine all other contents of life, 
even if in a certain parallelism with economics. 

§ 4 . The Problem Areas of Sociology 


("general sociology**) 

These considerations afford a glimpse, beyond the mere con- 
cept of sociological method, at the first basic problem area of 
sociology. Although it covers almost all of human existence, it 
does not therefore lose that character of one-sided abstraction that 
no science can get rid of. For however socially determined and 
permeated, as it were, each item in the economic and intellectual, 
political and juridical, even religious and generally cultural 
spheres may be, nevertheless, in the actuality of concrete life, 
this social determination is interwoven with other determina- 
tions that stem from other sources. Above all, from the circum- 
stance that things also have a purely objective character. It is 
always some objective content — technical, dogmatic, intellectual, 
physiological — which channels the development of the social 
forces and which, by virtue of its own character, logic, and law, 
keeps it within certain directions and limits. Any social phe- 

The Problem Areas of Sociology 17 

nomenon, no matter in what material it realize itself, must sub- 
mit to the natural laws of this material. Any intellectual achieve- 
ment is tied, in however various ways, to the laws of thought and 
to the behavior of objects. Any creation in the fields of art, poli- 
tics, law, medicine, philosophy, or in any other field of inven- 
tion, observes a certain order that we can understand in terms 
of the objective situation of its contents and that is characterized 
by such relations as intensification, connection, differentiation, 
combination, etc. No human wish or practice can take arbitrary 
steps, jump arbitrary distances, perform arbitrary syntheses. They 
must follow the intrinsic logic of things. 

Thus, one could very well construct the history of art, as a 
perfectly understandable development, by presenting works of 
art themselves, anonymously, in their temporal sequence and 
stylistic evolution; or the development of law, as the sequence of 
particular institutions and laws; or that of science, as the mere 
series, historical or systematic, of its results; etc. Here, as in the 
cases of a song that is analyzed in terms of its musical value, or of 
a physical theory in terms of its truth, or of a machine in terms 
of its efficiency, we realize that all contents of human life, even 
though they materialize only under the conditions and in the 
dynamics of social life, nevertheless permit interpretations ignor- 
ing it. Objects embody their own ideas; they have significance, 
laws, value standards which are independent of both the social 
and the individual life and which make it possible to define and 
understand them in their own terms. In comparison with full 
reality, of course, even this understanding involves abstraction, 
since no objective content is realized by its own logic alone but 
only through the cooperation of historical and psychological 
forces. Cognition cannot grasp reality in its total immediacy. 
What we call objective content is something conceived under a 
specific category. 

Under one of these categories, the history of mankind ap- 
pears as the behavior and product of individuals. One may look 
at a work of art only in regard to its artistic significance; one may 
place it, as if it had fallen from the sky, within a series of artistic 
products. Yet one may also understand it in terms of the artist’s 
personality and development, his experiences and tendencies. 
One may interpret it as a pulsation or immediate experience of 

18 The Field of Sociology 

individual life. Thus viewed, the work of art remains within 
the bounds of the individual and his continuity. Certain cultural 
data — above all art and, in general, everything that has the 
breath of creativity — appear more easily graspable in such a 
perspective than do other data. Quite generally, to look at the 
world as something that is carried by the active and receptive, 
typical or unique subject, is one of the possibilities of translating 
the unity of all human creation into understandability. The 
manifestation of the individual strikes us as an active element 
everywhere. Its laws permit us to form a plane, as it were, on 
which to project reality in all its fullness. 

The purpose of this discussion is to show that there exists not 
only social life as a basis for the life of mankind and as a formula 
of it. This life may also be derived from the objective significance 
of its contents, and be interpreted in these terms. And it may 
finally be conceived in the framework of the nature and creativity 
of the individual. Perhaps there are other interpretive categories 
that have not yet been clearly developed. At any rate, all these 
analyses and structuralizations of our immediate life and crea- 
tivity experience this life as a unity. They lie on the same plane 
and have the same right to be heard. Therefore — and this is the 
point — no one of them can claim to be the only or the only 
adequate manner of cognition. Naturally, neither can such a 
claim be made by the approach which proceeds in terms of the 
social form of our existence. It, too, is limited; and it supplements 
other approaches by which in turn it is supplemented. With this 
qualification, however, it can, in principle, offer a possibility of 
cognition in front of the totality of human existence. 

The facts of politics, religion, economics, law, culture styles, 
language, and innumerable others can be analyzed by asking 
how they may be understood, not as individual achievements or 
in their objective significance, but as products and developments 
of society. Nor would the absence of an exhaustive and undis- 
puted definition of the nature of society render the cognitive 
value of this approach illusory. For it is a characteristic of the 
human mind to be capable of erecting solid structures, while 
their foundations are still insecure. Physical and chemical propo- 
sitions do not suffer from the obscure and problematical charac- 
ter of the concept of matter; juridical propositions, not from the 

The Problem Areas of Sociology 19 

quarrel over the nature of law and of its first principles; psycho- 
logical ones, not from the highly questionable “nature of the 
soul/’ If, therefore, we apply the “sociological method” to the 
investigation of the fall of the Roman Empire or of the relation 
between religion and economics in the great civilizations or of 
the origin of the idea of the German national state or of the 
predominance of the Baroque style; if, that is, we view these 
and similar phenomena as the result of indistinguishable contri- 
butions made by the interaction of individuals, or as life stages 
in the lives of superindividual groups; then we are, in point of 
fact, conducting our investigations according to the sociological 
method. And these investigations may be designated as sociology. 

Yet from these sociological investigations there emerges a 
further abstraction that may well be characterized as the result 
of a highly differentiated scientific culture. This abstraction 
yields a group of sociological problems in the narrower sense of 
this term. If we study all kinds of life data in terms of their 
development within and by means of social groups, we must as- 
sume that they have common elements in their materialization 
(even though different elements, under different circumstances). 
These common elements emerge if, and only if, social life itself 
emerges as tjje origin or the subject of these data. The question 
thus arises whether perhaps it is possible to find, in the most 
heterogeneous historical developments that share nothing but 
the fact that they are exhibited by one particular group, a com- 
mon law, or a rhythm, that is fully derivable from this one fact. 

It has been maintained, for instance, that all historical de- 
velopments pass through three phases. The first is the undifferen- 
tiated unity of manifold elements. The second is the differen- 
tiated articulation of these elements, that have become alienated 
from one another. The third is a new unity, the harmonious 
interpenetration of the elements that have been preserved, how- 
ever, in their specific characters. More briefly, the road of all 
completed developments leads from an undifferentiated unity 
through a differentiated manifoldness to a differentiated unity. 
Another conception of historical life sees it as a process which 
progresses from organic commonness to mechanical simultan- 
eousness. Property, work, and interests originally grow out of 
the solidarity of the individuals, the carriers of the group life; but 

20 The Field of Sociology 

later are distributed among egoists each of whom seeks only his 
own benefit and, only because of this motive, enters into relations 
with others. The first stage is the manifestation of an unconscious 
will which inheres in the very depth of our nature and becomes 
evident only as a feeling; the second stage, by contrast, is the 
product of an arbitrary will and of the calculating intellect. Ac- 
cording to a still different conception, it is possible to ascertain 
a definite relation, in any given epoch, between its intellectual 
world view and its social conditions: both equally are manifesta- 
tions, in some sense, of biological development. Finally, there 
is the notion that human cognition, on the whole, must go 
through three stages. In the first, or theological stage, natural 
phenomena are explained by recourse to the arbitrary will of all 
kinds of entities. In the second, metaphysical stage, the super- 
natural causes are replaced by laws which, however, are mystical 
and speculative (as, for instance, 'Vital force,” "ends of nature,” 
etc.). Finally, the third, or positive stage corresponds to modern 
experimental and exact science. Each particular branch of knowl- 
edge develops by passing through these three stages; and the 
knowledge of this fact removes the enigmatic character of social 
development, which pervades areas of all kinds. 

A further sociological question under this category is the 
problem concerning conditions of group power ^ as distinguished 
from individual power. The conditions for the power of indi- 
viduals are immediately evident: intelligence, energy, an apt 
alternation between consistency and elasticity, etc.; but to ac- 
count for the historical power of such extraordinary phenomena 
as Jesus, on the one hand, and Napoleon, on the other, there must 
also exist as yet unexplained forces which are by no means clari- 
fied by labels like "power of suggestion,” "prestige,” and so forth. 
But in the exercise of power by groups, both over their members 
and over other groups, there operate still other factors. Some of 
these are the faculty of rigid concentration, as well as of diversion 
into independent activities by individual group members; con- 
scious faith in leading minds; groping toward expansion; egoism 
of the individual paralleled by sacrificial devotion to the whole; 
fanatic dogmatism, as well as thoroughly critical intellectual 
freedom. All these are effective in the rise (and, negatively, in 
the decay) not only of political nations but also of countless eco- 

The Problem Areas of Sociology 21 

nomic and religious, party-like and family groups. In all investi- 
gations of group power, the question, clearly, is not the origin of 
sociation as such, but the fate of society as something already 
constituted. And this fate is ascertained inductively. 

Another question that arises out of the sociological considera- 
tion of conditions and events is that of the value relations be- 
tween collective and individual conduct, action, and thought. 
Which differences of level, as measured by certain ideal standards, 
exist between social and individual phenomena? The inner, 
fundamental structure of society itself here becomes as little 
the central problem as it did in connection with the preceding 
question. Again, this structure is already presupposed, and the 
data are considered on the basis of this presupposition. The ques- 
tion, rather, is: which general principles are revealed in these 
data if they are considered in this particular perspective? In 
the next chapter, this problem of levels will be examined as an 
example of a sociological type that may be called ‘‘general 

FORMAL, sociology”) 

Scientific: abstraction cuts through the full concreteness of 
social phenomena from yet a different angle. It thereby connects 
all that is “sociological” — “sociological” in a sense that will be 
discussed presently and that appears to me to be the most decisive 
sense of the term. In doing this, scientific abstraction produces a 
consistent manner of cognition. Yet it fully realizes that in 
actuality, sociological phenomena do not exist in such isolation 
and recomposition, but that they are factored out of this living 
reality by means of an added concept. It will be remembered that 
societal facts are not only societal. It is always an objective content 
(sense-perceived or intellectual, technical or physiological) which 
is socially embodied, produced, or transmitted, and which only 
thus produces the totality of social life. Yet this societal forma- 
tion of contents itself can be investigated by a science. Geometri- 
cal abstraction investigates only the spatial forms of bodies, al- 
though empirically, these forms are given merely as the forms of 
some material content. Similarly, if society is conceived as inter- 
action among individuals, the description of the forms of this 

22 The Field of Sociology 

interaction is the task of the science of society in its strictest and 
most essential sense. 

The first problem area of sociology, it will be remembered, 
consisted of the whole of historical life insofar as it is formed 
societally. Its societal character was conceived as an undifferen- 
tiated whole. The second problem area now under consideration, 
consists of the societal forms themselves. These are conceived as 
constituting society (and societies) out of the mere sum of living 
men. The study of this second area may be called '‘pure soci- 
ology,'* which abstracts the mere element of sociation. It isolates 
it inductively and psychologically from the heterogeneity of its 
contents and purposes, which, in themselves, are not societal. It 
thus proceeds like grammar, which isolates the pure forms of 
language from their contents through which these forms, never- 
theless, come to life. In a comparable manner, social groups which 
are the most diverse imaginable in purpose and general signifi- 
cance, may nevertheless show identical forms of behavior toward 
one another on the part of their individual members. We find 
superiority and subordination, competition, division of labor, 
formation of parties, representation, inner solidarity coupled 
with exclusiveness toward the outside, and innumerable similar 
features in the state, in a religious community, ii) a band of con- 
spirators, in an economic association, in an art school, in the 
family. However diverse the interests are that give rise to these 
sociations, the forms in which the interests are realized may yet 
be identical. And on the other hand, a contentually identical 
interest may take on form in very different sociations. Economic 
interest is realized both in competition and in the planned or- 
ganization of producers, in isolation against other groups as well 
as in fusion with them. The religious contents of life, although 
they remain identical, sometimes demand an unregulated, some- 
times a centralized form of community. The interests upon 
which the relations between the sexes are based are satisfied by 
an almost innumerable variety of family forms; etc. 

Hence, not only may the form in which the most divergent 
contents are realized be identical; but, inversely, the content, too, 
may persist, while its medium — the interactions of the indivi- 
duals — adopts a variety of forms. We see, then, that the analysis 
in terms of form and content transforms the facts — which, in their 

The Problem Areas of Sociology 23 

immediacy, present these two categories as the indissoluble unity 
of social life — in such a way as to justify the sociological problem. 
This problem demands the identification, the systematic order- 
ing, the psychological explanation, and the historical develop- 
ment of the pure forms of sociation. Obviously, in terms of its 
subject matter, sociology thus seen is not a special science, as it 
was in terms of the first problem area. Yet in terms of its clearly 
specified way of asking questions, it is a special science even here. 
The discussion of “sociability,’' in the third chapter of the pres- 
ent sketch, will offer an example that may serve to symbolize the 
total picture of the investigations in “pure sociology.” ® 


The modern scientific attitude toward facts finally suggests a 
third complex of questions concerning the fact “society.” Insofar 
as these questions are adjacent (as it were) to the upper and 
lower limits of this fact, they are sociological only in a broad sense 
of the term; more properly, they are philosophical. Their content 
is constituted by this fact itself. Similarly, nature and art, out 
of which we develop their immediate sciences, also supply us 
with the subject matters of their philosophies, whose interests 
and methods lie on a different level. It is the level on which fac- 
tual details are investigated concerning their significance for the 
totality of mind, life, and being in general, and concerning their 
justification in terms of such a totality. 

Thus, like every other exact science which aims at the im- 
mediate understanding of the given, social science, too, is sur- 
rounded by two philosophical areas. One of these covers the 
conditions, fundamental concepts, and presuppositions of con- 
crete research, which cannot be taken care of by research itself 
since it is based on them. In the other area, this research is car- 
ried toward completions, connections, questions, and concepts 
that have no place in experience and in immediately objective 
knowledge. The first area is the epistemology, the second, the 
metaphysics of the particular discipline. 

SI may be allowed to call attention to the fact that my above-mentioned 
Soziologie tries to present the “forms of sociation” in a completeness which is by 
no means definitive but is the best I can attain at this time. 

24 The Field of Sociology 

The tasks of the special social sciences — the study of eco- 
nomics and of institutions, the history of morals and of parties, 
population theory, and the discussion of occupational differen- 
tiation — could not be carried out at all if they did not presuppose 
certain concepts, postulates, and methods as axiomatic. If we did 
not assume a certain drive toward egoistic gain and pleasure, 
but at the same time the limitability of this drive through coer- 
cion, custom, and morals; if we did not claim the right to speak 
of the moods of a mass as a unit, although many of the members 
of this mass are only its superficial followers or even dissenters; 
if we did not declare the development within a particular sphere 
of culture understandable by recreating it as an evolution with 
a psychological logic — if we did not proceed in this way, we 
should be utterly unable to cast innumerable facts into a social 
picture. In all these and in countless other situations, we operate 
with methods of thinking that use particular events as raw ma- 
terials from which we derive social-scientific knowledge. So- 
ciology proceeds like physics, which could never have been 
developed without grasping external phenomena on the basis 
of certain assumptions concerning space, matter, movement, and 
enumerability. Every special social science customarily and quite 
legitimately accepts without question such a basis of itself. Within 
its own domain, it could not even come to grips with it; for, in 
order to do so, obviously it would also have to take all other 
social sciences into consideration. Sociology thus emerges as the 
epistemology of the special social sciences, as the analysis and 
systematization of the bases of their forms and norms. 

If these problems go beneath the concrete knowledge of 
social life, others, as it were, go beyond it. They try, by means of 
hypothesis and speculation, to supplement the unavoidably frag- 
mentary character of the empirical facts (which always are frag- 
mentary) in the direction of a closed system. They order the 
chaotic and accidental events into series that follow an idea or 
approach a goal. They ask where the neutral and natural se- 
quences of events might provide these events or their totality 
with significance. They assert or doubt — and both assertion and 
doubt, equally, derive from a super-empirical world view — that 
the play of social-historical phenomena contains a religious sig- 
nificance, or a relation (to be known or at least sensed) to the 

The Problem Areas of Sociology 25 

metaphysical ground of being. More particularly, they ask ques- 
tions such as these: Is society the purpose of human existence, or 
is it a means for the individual? Does the ultimate value of social 
development lie in the unfolding of personality or of association? 
Do meaning and purpose inhere in social phenomena at all, or 
exclusively in individuals? Do the typical stages of the develop- 
ment of societies show an analogy with cosmic evolutions 
so that there might be a general formula or rhythm of develop- 
ment in general (as, for instance, the fluctuation between differen- 
tiation and integration), which applies to social and material data 
alike? Are social movements guided by the principle of the con- 
servation of energy? Are they directed by material or by ideologi- 
cal motives? 

Evidently, this type of question cannot be answered by the 
ascertainment of facts. Rather, it must be answered by interpreta- 
tions of ascertained facts and by efforts to bring the relative and 
problematical elements of social reality under an over-all view. 
Such a view does not compete with empirical claims because it 
serves needs which are quite different from those answered by 
empirical propositions. 

The investigation of such problems, clearly, is more strictly 
based on differences in world views, individual and party valua- 
tions, and ultimate, undemonstrable convictions than is the 
investigation within the other two, more strictly fact-determined 
branches of sociology. For this reason, the discussion of a single 
problem as an example could not be as objective and could not 
as validly suggest the whole type of similar problems here, as is 
possible in the case of the other two branches. It therefore seems 
to me more advisable to trace, in the last chapter, a line of perti- 
nent theories as they have been developed, in the course of many 
controversies, during a particular period of general intellectual 

Chapter 2 

The Social and the 
Individual Level 

An Example of General Sociology 


the only topic of social investigation was the historical fate or the 
practical politics of particular groups. During the last decades, 
however, sociation^ or the life of groups as units, has become such 
a topic. Attention thus was attracted by what is common to all 
groups inasmuch as they are societies. This presently led to the 
examination of a closely related problem — of the characteristics 
which distinguish social from individual life. At first glance, the 
differences seem obvious. For instance, there is the basic im- 
mortality of the group, as against the mortality of the individual. 
There is the possibility of the group eliminating even its most 
important elements without collapsing — an elimination which, 
applied to the individual, would annihilate him. But the prob- 
lem was of a more subtle, perhaps psychological, nature. No mat- 
ter whether one considers the group that exists irrespective of its 
individual members a fiction or a reality, in order to understand 
certain facts one must treat it as if it actually did have its own 
life, and laws, and other characteristics. And if one is to justify 
the sociological standpoint, it is precisely the differences between 
these characteristics and those of the individual existence that 
one must clarify. 

§ 1 . The Determinateness of the Group and the 
Vacillation of the Individual 

A clue for the ascertainment of these differences lies in the 
suggestion that societal actions have incomparably greater pur- 


The Determinateness of the Group 27 

posiveness and to-the-pointness than individual actions. The 
individual, the argument goes, is torn by conflicting feelings, im- 
pulses, and considerations. In his conduct, he is not always cer- 
tain subjectively, much less correct objectively, in his knowledge 
of alternatives. Although it often changes its line of action, the 
social group is, by contrast, nevertheless determined at any one 
moment to follow, without reservation, the line of that moment. 
Above all, it always knows whom to consider its enemy and 
whom its friend. Furthermore, it shows less discrepancy than 
the individual between will and deed, and between means and 
ends. Individual actions, therefore, strike us as “free,*' and mass 
actions impress us as if they were determined by natural laws. 

This whole formulation is highly questionable. Nevertheless, 
it merely exaggerates a real and highly significant difference be- 
tween group and individual. The difference results from the fact 
that the aims of the public spirit, as of any collective, are those 
that usually strike the individual as if they were his own funda- 
mentally simple and primitive aims. There are two reasons why 
this fact is so often not realized. One is the power that public 
aims have gained with the expansion of their range. The other 
is the highly complex techniques with which especially modern 
public life appeals to the individual intelligence when trying to 
put these aims into practice. The social group does not vacillate 
or err in all its aims, just as the individual does not in only his 
most primitive ones. The insurance of his existence, the acquisi- 
tion of new property, the pleasure derived from the maintenance 
and expansion of his power, and the protection of his possessions 
are fundamental drives of the individual. In pursuing their 
satisfaction, he associates with an indefinite number of other in- 
dividuals. It is because he does not choose these aspirations nor 
vacillate in their pursuit that the social aspiration, which unites 
him with others, knows no choice or vacillation either. Further- 
more, just as the individual proceeds with clarity, determination, 
and certainty of aim in his purely egoistic actions, so the mass 
in regard to all of its aims. The mass does not know the dualism 
of egoistic and altruistic impulses, a dualism that often renders 
the individual helpless and makes him embrace a vacuum. Law, 
the first and essential condition of the life of groups, large and 
small, has aptly been called the “ethical minimum.*' As a matter 

28 The Social and the Individual Level 

of fact, the norms adequate to secure the continuation of the 
group (even if only precariously), constitute a bare minimum 
for the external existence of the individual as a social being. If he 
observed only them, without tying himself to a large number of 
additional laws, he would be an ethical abnormality, an utterly 
impossible being. 

§ 2 . Individual vs. Group Member 

This consideration hints at the nature of the difference in 
level between the mass and the individual. The difference be- 
comes clearly visible, and can be understood, on the basis of only 
one fact. This fact is the possibility of separating, in the indi- 
vidual himself, the qualities and behaviors by which he '‘forms’' 
the “mass” and which he contributes to the collective spirit, on 
the one hand; and, on the other, different qualities which con- 
stitute his private property, as it were, and which lift him out 
of everything he may have in common with others. The first part 
of his nature can evidently consist only in more primitive ele- 
ments, that are inferior in terms of finesse and intellectuality. 
This is so, above all, because it is the existence of these elements 
alone that we can be relatively sure of in all individuals. If the 
organic world gradually develops from lower to higher forms, 
the lower and more primitive ones, obviously, are the oldest. 
But thus, they are also the most widely diffused: the heredity of 
the species is the more certainly transmitted to the individual, 
the longer it has been in existence and has become fixed. By 
contrast, more recently acquired organs — such as the higher and 
more complex organs are to a much greater extent — always are 
more variable; and it is impossible to be sure whether all mem- 
bers of a given species already possess them. Thus the length of 
time during which a given trait has been inherited constitutes 
the real relation that exists between its primitive character and 
its diffusion. But we must consider not only biological heredity. 
There also are intellectual traits that manifest themselves in 
word and knowledge, in orientation of feeling, and in norms of 
will and judgment. As traditions, both conscious and uncon- 
scious, they permeate the individual; and the more so, the more 
generally, firmly, and unquestionably they have become parts of 

Esteem of the Old and of the New 29 

the intellectual life of his society — that is, the older they are. To 
this same extent, however, they are also less complex; they are 
coarser and closer to the immediate manifestations and necessi- 
ties of life. As they become more refined and differentiated, they 
lose the probability of being the property of all. Rather, they 
become more or less individual, and are only accidentally shared 
with others. 

§ 3. Esteem of the Old and of the New 

This fundamental relationship is apt to explain a character- 
istic phenomenon of culture: the fact, namely, that both the old, 
and at the same time the new and rare, enjoy particular esteem. 
The esteem of the old needs little comment. Perhaps what has 
existed always and has been transmitted since time immemorial, 
owes the respect in which it is held not only to the patina of age, 
with its mystical-romantic fascination. It is also esteemed, pre- 
cisely, because of the fact I stress here, namely, that it is also most 
widely diffused and most deeply rooted in the individual. It 
resides at or near the layer which is the soil of the individual's 
instinctive, undemonstrable, and* irrefutable valuations. In early 
medieval litigations, for instance, the decision was generally made 
on the basis of the older of two contradictory royal charters. 
This was probably due, not so much to the conviction of the 
greater justice of the older document, as to the feeling that be- 
cause of its greater age it had diffused justice more widely and had 
defined it more firmly than the more recent charter could have 
done. In other words, the older document enjoyed greater pres- 
tige because its longer existence was the real cause for its accord 
with the majority sentiment of justice. We will probably have to 
assume quite generally (in spite of all exceptions which certainly 
must be admitted) that the older is also the simpler, less special- 
ized, and less articulated. We must also assume, then, that it is 
accessible to the mass at large not only for this reason but also 
because it is the older, that is, that which is more securely trans- 
mitted to the individual, externally and internally, and there- 
fore is something apt to be justified and cherished as a matter 
of course. 

Yet the same assumption also accounts for the opposite valua- 

30 The Social and the Individual Level 

tion. Lessing’s dictum, “The first thoughts are everybody’s 
thoughts,’’ suggests that the thoughts which emerge in us instinc- 
tively, namely, from the most secure (because oldest) layers of 
our minds, are the most generally diffused. And this explains 
Lessing’s derogatory tone when he speaks of them. For him, 
obviously, more valuable thoughts — those that exhibit an in- 
dissoluble interaction of individuality with newness — begin only 
beyond the primitive ones. Another example: in India we find 
that the social hierarchy of occupations depends on their age. 
The more recent occupations are esteemed more highly — pre- 
sumably because they are more complex, refined, and difficult, 
and are therefore accessible only to the individual talent. To 
recapitulate: the reason for the esteem of the new and rare lies 
in the discriminatory power of our psychological make-up. What- 
ever attracts our consciousness, excites our interest, or increases 
our alertness, must somehow distinguish itself from what in and 
outside ourselves is matter-of-fact, everyday, and habitual. 

§ 4 . The Sociological Significance of Individual 
Similarity and Dissimilarity 

It is above all the practical significance of men for one an- 
other that is determined by both similarities and differences 
among them. Similarity, as fact or as tendency, is no less import- 
ant than difference. In the most varied forms, both are the great 
principles of all external and internal development. In fact, the 
cultural history of mankind can be conceived as the history of 
the struggles and conciliatory attempts between the two. For the 
actions of the individual, his difference from others is of far 
greater interest than is his similarity with them. It largely is 
differentiation from others that challenges and determines our 
activity. We depend on the observation of their differences if we 
want to use them and adopt the right attitude toward them. Our 
practical interest concentrates on what gives us advantages and 
disadvantages in our dealings with them, not on that in which 
we coincide. Similarity, rather, provides the indispensable condi- 
tion for any developing action whatever. Darwin reports that 
in his many contacts with animal breeders he never met one who 
believed in the common origin of species. The interest in the 

The IndividuaVs Superiority over the Mass 31 

slight variation that characterized the particular stock which he 
happened to breed and which constituted a practical value for 
him, so occupied his consciousness that it left no room for noting 
the basic similarity of this stock with other races and species. It 
is understandable that such an interest in the diflEerentiae of his 
property should extend to all other possessions and relations of 
the individual. In general, we may say that if something is objec- 
tively of equal importance in terms of both similarity with a type 
and differentiation from it, we will be more conscious of the 
differentiation. In regard to the similarity, organic purposiveness 
perhaps proceeds without consciousness, because in practical 
life it needs all the consciousness there is for the awareness of 
differences. The interest in differentiation in fact is so great that 
in practice it produces differences where there is no objective 
basis for them. We note, for instance, that organizations, whether 
they be legislative bodies or committees in charge of “social f unc- 
tions, “ in spite of their outspoken and unifying positions and 
aims, are apt, in the course of time, to split up into factions; and 
these factions stand in relations to one another that are similar 
to those between the original organization as a whole and another 
organization with a totally different character. It is as if each 
individual .largely felt his own significance only by contrasting 
himself with others. As a matter of fact, where such a contrast 
does not exist, he may even artificially create it. He may do so 
even when the whole solidarity and unity he now scans in his 
search for a contrast, derive from the existence of a united front 
that he and others have formed in opposition to another similar 
united front. 

§ 5 . The IndividuaVs Superiority over the Mass 

Countless additional examples from cultural and social his- 
tory testify to the fact that the new, the rare, and the individual 
(merely three aspects, evidently, of the same fundamental phe- 
nomenon) are rated as the valuationally preferred. This discus- 
sion, however, only has the purpose of throwing light on the 
inverse phenomenon, the fact, that is, that the qualities and be- 
haviors with which the individual forms a mass, because he shares 
them with others, are rated valuationally inferior. Here we deal 

32 The Social and the Individual Level 

with what might be called the sociological tragedy as such. The 
more refined, highly developed, articulated the qualities of an 
individual are, the more unlikely are they to make him similar 
to other individuals and to form a unit with corresponding 
qualities in others. Rather, they tend to become incomparable; 
and the elements, in terms of which the individual can count 
on adapting himself to others and on forming a homogeneous 
mass with them, are increasingly reduced to lower and primi- 
tively more sensuous levels. This explains how it is possible for 
the “folk’’ or the “mass’* to be spoken of with contempt, with- 
out there being any need for the individual to feel himself re- 
ferred to by this usage, which actually does not refer to any 
individual. As soon as the individual is considered in his entirety, 
he appears to possess much higher qualities than those he con- 
tributes to the collective unit. This situation has found its classi- 
cal formulation in Schiller: “Seen singly, everybody is passably 
intelligent and reasonable; but united into a body, they are block- 
heads.’’ The fact that individuals, in all their divergencies, leave 
only the lowest parts of their personalities to form a common 
denominator, is stressed by Heine: “You have rarely understood 
me, and rarely did I understand you. Only when we met in the 
mire did we understand each other at once.’’ 

Thisldifference between the individual and the mass level is 
so profoundly characteristic of social existence and is of such 
important consequences that it is worthwhile quoting additional 
observations. /They come from authorities of extremely different 
historical positions who are similar, however, in the sense that 
these positions gave them exceptional insight into collective 
phenomena. Solon is supposed to have said that each of his 
Athenians is a shrewd fox; but that, if assembled on the Pnyx, 
they amount to a herd of sheep. The Cardinal Retz, when describ- 
ing the procedure of the Parisian parliament at the time of the 
Fronde, notes in his memoirs that numerous bodies, even if their 
members include many high-stationed and cultivated indivi- 
duals, in common discussion and procedure always act as a mob, 
reverting to the conceptions and passions of the common people. 
Frederick the Great, in a remark that is very similar to that of 
Solon, says that his generals are the most reasonable people as 
long as he talks to them as individuals, but that they are “sheep- 

The Individual’s Superiority over the Mass 35 

heads” when assembled in war council. Evidently something 
comparable is suggested by the English historian Freeman, who 
observes that the House of Cotnmons, though an aristocratic 
body in terms of the ranks of its members, nevertheless, when 
assembled, behaves like a democratic rabble. The best authority 
on British trade unions notes that their mass assemblies often 
result in very stupid and pernicious resolutions, so that most of 
such meetings have been given up in favor of assemblies of dele- 
gates. This is confirmed by observations that are insignificant 
in their contents but are sociologically relevant, not only because 
of their frequency, but also because they symbolize historically 
very important situations and events. I shall give only a few 
examples. Eating and drinking, the oldest and intellectually 
most negligible functions, can form a tie, often the only one, 
among very heterogeneous persons and groups. Stag parties may 
be attended by highly cultivated individuals who, nevertheless, 
have the tendency to pass the time by telling off-color jokes. 
Among younger people, the peak of gaiety and harmony is al- 
ways attained by means of the most primitive and intellectually 
least pretentious social games. 

'The difference between the individual and collective levels 
accounts for the fact that the necessity to oblige the masses, or 
even habitually to expose oneself to them, easily corrupts the 
character. It pulls the individual away from his individuality 
and down to a level with all and sundry. T o consider it a question- 
able virtue of the journalist, the actor, and the demagogue to 
“seek the favor of the masses” would not be altogether justified 
if these masses consisted of the sum of the total personal existences 
of their members. For there is no reason whatever to despise them. 
But actually, the mass is no such sum. It is a new phenomenon 
made up, not of the total individualities of its members, but only 
of those fragments of each of them in which he coincides with 
all others. These fragments, therefore, can be nothing but the 
lowest and most primitive. It is this mass, and the level that must 
always remain accessible to each of its members, that these intel- 
lectually and morally endangered persons serve — and not each 
of its members in its entirety. 

34 The Social and the Individual Level 
§ 6 . The Simplicity and Radicalism of the Mass 

Evidently, this level does not permit ways of behavior which 
presuppose a plurality of alternatives. All mass actions avoid 
detours. Successfully or not, they attack their aims by the shortest 
route. They always are dominated by one idea, and by as simple 
an idea as possible. It is hardly possible for every member of the 
mass to have the consciousness and conviction of a more varied 
complex of ideas which, in addition, is identical with that of 
everybody else. In view of the complex conditions under which 
we live, any idea that seeks to gain adherents must be radical, and 
must disregard a great many claims with which it is, or could be, 
confronted. It thus is understandable that in general, in periods 
of mass activation, radical parties should be powerful, and mediat- 
ing parties that insist on the right of both sides, should be weak. 
It is exceedingly characteristic of the difference between the 
Greek and the Roman temper that the Greek citizens voted as a 
unified mass under the immediate impact of the orator, while 
the Romans voted in pre-established groups {centuriatim, trU 
butim, etc.) that in a certain sense functioned as individuals. We 
thus understand the relative calm and reasonableness characteris- 
tic of Roman decisions, and the intransigence and passion that 
so frequently marked the Greeks. Yet this psychological harmony 
of the mass also produces certain negative virtues, whose opposite 
presupposes a plurality of simultaneously conscious alternatives. 
Thus, the mass neither lies nor simulates. Usually, however, and 
because of the same psychological constitution, it also lacks con- 
sciousness of responsibility. 

^1. The Emotionality of the Mass Appeal and of the Mass 

If one arranges psychological manifestations in a genetic and 
systematic hierarchy, one will certainly place, at its basis, feeling 
(though naturally not all feelings), rather than the intellect. 
Pleasure and pain, as well as certain instinctive feelings that 
serve the preservation of individual and species, have developed 
prior to all operation with concepts, judgments, and conclusions. 
Thus, the development of the intellect, more than anything else, 
reveals the lag of the social behind the individual level, whereas 

The Emotionality of the Mass Appeal 35 

the realm of feeling may show the opposite. Carl Maria von 
Weber’s statement about the public at large — “The individual is 
an ass, and yet the whole is the voice of God” — does not conflict 
with the appraisals of collective behavior that have been quoted 
earlier. For it expresses the experience of the musician, who ap- 
peals to the feeling, not to the intellect. 

Whoever wants to affect the masses always succeeds by an 
appeal to their feelings, very rarely by theoretical discussion, 
however concise it may be. This is particularly true of masses 
that are together in physical proximity. They exhibit something 
one might call collective nervousness — a sensitivity, a passion, 
an eccentricity that will hardly ever be found in anyone of their 
members in isolation. The phenomenon has been observed even 
in animal herds: the softest wing beat, the slightest jump of a 
single animal often degenerate into a panic of the whole herd. 
Human crowds, too, are characterized by casual stimuli making 
for enormous effects, by the avalanche-like growth of the most 
negligible impulses of love and hate, by an objectively quite 
understandable excitation in the throes of which the mass blindly 
storms from thought to deed — by an Excitation that carries the 
individual without meeting any resistance. 

These phenomena must probably be traced to mutual in- 
fluences through effusions of feeling that are hard to ascertain. 
Yet because they occur between each and all others, they come 
to cause, in every member of the mass, an excitation that cannot 
possibly be explained either in terms of him or of the matter at 
issue. It is one of the most revealing, purely sociological phe- 
nomena that the individual feels himself carried by the “mood” 
of the mass, as if by an external force that is quite indifferent 
to his own subjective being and wishing, and yet that the, mass is 
exclusively composed of just such individuals. Their interaction 
pure and simple shows a dynamic, which because of its power 
appears as something objective. It conceals their own contribu- 
tions from the interacting individuals. Actually the individual, 
by being carried away, carries away. 

Such an extreme intensification of feeling due to mere physi- 
cal proximity is shown, for instance, by the Quakers. Although 
the inwardness and subjectivism of their religion really op- 
pose any sharing of worship, such a sharing nevertheless often 

36 The Social and the Individual Level 

emerges in their silent gatherings. The unintended feeling is 
justified by the suggestion that it serves to bring them closer 
to the spirit of God. Yet for them, such closeness can only come 
from inspiration and nervous exaltation. These feelings must 
therefore be evoked by mere physical proximity, even if it is 
silent. After describing certain ecstatic traits of a member of the 
assembly, a late seventeenth-century English Quaker suggests 
that, by virtue of the members’ unification into one body, the 
ecstasy of an individual often spreads to all others. It thereby 
moves them deeply and fruitfully, and this irresistible experi- 
ence, he writes, gains the association many members. Innumer- 
able other cases teach us that a similar intensification of emo- 
tionality overpowers individual intellectuality. It is as if 
numbers in physical proximity multiplied the individual’s feel- 
ing power. In the theatre or at other gatherings all of us laugh at 
jokes that, in a smaller company, would merely make us shrug 
our shoulders. What embarrassingly harmless quips scatter parlia- 
mentary records with the annotation ‘'Laughter!” But not only 
critical but also moral inhibitions are easily suspended in this 
sociological state of inebriation. This suspension alone explains 
so-called mass crimes, of which, afterward, the individual par- 
ticipant declares himself innocent. He does so with good sub- 
jective conscience, and not even without some objective justifica- 
tion: the overpowering predominance of feeling destroyed the 
psychological forces that customarily sustain the consistency and 
stability of the person, and hence, his responsibility. Mass excite- 
ment, however, also has its ethically valuable aspect: it may 
produce a noble enthusiasm and an unlimited readiness to sacri- 
fice. Yet this does not eliminate its distorted character and its 
irresponsibility. It only stresses our removal from the value 
standards that individual consciousness has developed, whether 
practically effective or not. 

§ 8 . The Level of Society as the Approximation to the 
Loivest Common Level of its Members 

On the basis of all we have said so far, we can bring the 
formation of the social level under the following valuational 

The Level of Society 37 

formula: what is common to all can be the property of only those 
who possess least. This is symbolized even by the notion of 
‘‘property*' in its material sense. Thus, an English law of 1407 
gave the initiative for monetary allotments to the House of 
Commons; and the constitutional historian of the period ex- 
plicitly states that the fundamental motive for this act was the 
idea that it behooves the poorest of the three estates to determine 
the maximum limit of the financial burden to be carried by the 
general public. What all give equally can only be based on the 
quota of the poorest. Here, too, is the purely sociological among 
the various reasons for the phenomenon that the usurper, who 
wants to dominate a society that is stratified by estates, usually 
tries to gain support from the lowest classes. For, in order equally 
to rise above all, he must level all; and this he can achieve, not 
by raising the lower strata, but only by lowering the higher to 
the level of the lower. 

It is thus quite misleading to designate the level of a society 
that considers itself a unit and practically operates as a unit, as 
an “average” level. The “average” would result from adding up 
the levels of the individuals and dividing the sum by their 
number. This procedure would involve a raising of the lowest 
individuals,. which actually is impossible. In reality, the level of 
a society is very close to that of its lowest components, since it 
must be possible for all to participate in it with identical valua- 
tion and effectiveness. The character of collective behavior does 
not lie near the “middle** but near the lower limits of its par- 
ticipants. And if I am not mistaken, this accounts for the fact 
that the term “mediocrity” refers, not at all to the actual value 
average of a collection of individuals or achievements, but to a 
quality considerably below it. 

Here we have room, of course, to cover only short tracts of 
the road of sociology, rather than all of it. Our treatment, in 
other words, does not aim at a definitive statement concerning 
the content of our science, but only at a sketch of the form and 
method of dealing with this content. I shall therefore limit myself 
to pointing out two of the many qualifications that must be 
mentioned in connection with the general conception of the for- 
mation of the social level that I have presented. In the first place, 
this level, as indicated, is practically almost never fixed by the 

38 The Social and the Individual Level 

very lowest among the group members. Rather, it only tends 
toward it, but usually stops somewhat above it, since the higher 
elements of the collective usually resist this descent, in however 
varying measures. Their countermovement results in the arrest of 
the collective action before it arrives at the lowest possible value. 

More significant is another limitation of the scheme that 
must be recognized even if the principle of the scheme is correctly 
understood. We said that what all have and are can be the ex- 
clusive property only of the poorest. Therefore, the creation of 
the mass, that is, the leveling of heterogeneous persons, can be 
brought .about only by the lowering of the higher elements, 
which is always possible, rather than by the raising of the lower 
elements, which is rarely if ever possible. This psychological 
mechanism, however, must be questioned. For the lowering of 
the higher elements actually is not always possible. Our whole 
discussion was based on the conception (which naturally was 
very crude and even problematical) of a psychological structure 
consisting of several layers. At its bottom we placed the primitive, 
unintellectual elements, which biologically are more certain than 
any others and which therefore can be presupposed to exist every- 
where. On top of them we placed the rarer, more recent, and more 
refined elements that eventually are differentiated to the point 
of complete individuality. This allowed us to conceive of the 
possibility that even in the case of the highest development of 
the latter they could consciously or unconsciously be eliminated, 
and the behavior of the individual could exclusively be de- 
termined by the former. Thus, a homogeneous group spirit could 
result from contributions which had become identical. 

Yet this whole process may occur sometimes, or even often, 
but it does not occur always. For in some individuals, the lower 
elements are so interfused with the higher ones that the tempting 
physical analogy, according to which man can always easily de- 
scend but can ascend only with difficulty and sometimes not at 
all, becomes quite inapplicable. This is at once evident in the 
field of ethics. Here, such traits as the desire for pleasure, cruelty, 
acquisitiveness, and mendacity are lowest in the psychological 
hierarchy. To a decent man, even if he should not be free of 
residues or suppressed fragments of such traits, it is simply im- 
possible to be motivated by them in his actions or even to lower 

The Level of Society 39 

his level casually, and thereby to suspend his higher qualities. 
Such impossibility, however, is found far beyond the field of 
ethics. However true it may be that the valet does not understand 
the hero because he cannot rise to his height, it is equally true 
that the hero does not understand the valet because he cannot 
lower himself to his subordinate level. 

In general, it is very revealing to distinguish men according 
to their capacity or incapacity to suppress their most valuable 
powers and interests in favor of their lower qualities which cer- 
tainly exist in them in varying degrees. The incapacity to do so, 
at any rate, is one of the main reasons why at all times certain 
noble and intellectual personalities have kept aloof from public 
life. In spite of the possibility of their roles as leaders, they must 
have felt what a great statesman once formulated in regard to his 
party when he said: '‘I am their leader, therefore I must follow 
them.” In spite of Bismarck's dictum that “politics corrupts 
character,” however, this aloofness does not by itself imply that 
these abstinent individuals are generally more valuable than are 
more public-minded persons. It rather reveals a certain weakness 
and lack of confidence in his higher elements, if the individual 
does not dare descend far enough toward the social level to be 
prepared for the fight against the social level — which is always 
a fight for it. And evidently, the fact that men of the highest 
individual caliber so often avoid contact with the social level 
delays its general rise. 

Chapter 3 


An Example of Pure, or Formal, Sociology 


chapter, I mentioned the motive which is responsible for the 
constitution of “pure sociology'* as a specific problem area. This 
motive must now be formulated once more before an example 
of its application is given. For in its capacity of one among many 
principles of investigating it, it not only determines this example; 
what is more, the motive itself furnishes the material of the ap- 
plication to be described. 

§ 1 . Contents (Materials) vs. Forms of Social Life 

The motive derives from two propositions. One is that in 
any human society one can distinguish between its content and 
its form. The other is that society itself, in general, refers to the 
interaction among individuals. This interaction always arises on 
the basis of certain drives or for the sake of certain purposes. 
Erotic instincts, objective interests, religious impulses, and pur- 
poses of defense or attack, of play or gain, of aid or instruction, 
and countless others cause man to live with other men, to act 
for them, with them, against them, and thus to arrange their con- 
ditions reciprocally — in brief, to influence others and to be 
influenced by them. The significance of these interactions lies 
in their causing the individuals who possess those instincts, in- 
terests, etc., to form a unit — precisely, a “society." Everything 
present in the individuals (who are the immediate, concrete data 
of all historical reality) in the form of drive, interest, purpose, 
inclination, psychic state, movement — everything that is present 
in them in such a way as to engender or mediate effects upon 


The Autonomization of Contents 41 

others or to receive such effects, I designate as the content, as the 
material, as it were, of sociation. In themselves, these materials 
with which life is filled, the motivations by which it is propelled, 
are not social. Strictly speaking, neither hunger nor love, neither 
work nor religiosity, neither technology nor the functions and 
results of intelligence, are social. They are factors in sociation 
only when they transform the mere aggregation of isolated indi- 
viduals into specific forms of being with and for one another — 
forms that are subsumed under the general concept of interac- 
tion. Sociation thus is the form (realized in innumerable, dif- 
ferent ways) in which individuals grow together into units that 
satisfy their interests. These interests, whether they are sensuous 
or ideal, momentary or lasting, conscious or unconscious, causal 
or teleological, form the basis of human societies. 

§ 2 . The Autonomization of Contents 

These facts have very far-reaching consequences. On the basis 
of practical conditions and necessities, our intelligence, will, 
creativity, and feeling work on the materials that we wish to 
wrest from life. In accord with our purposes, we give these ma- 
terials certain* forms and only in these forms operate and use 
them as elements of our lives. But it happens that these materials, 
these forces and interests, in a peculiar manner remove them- 
selves from the service of life that originally produced and em- 
ployed them. They become autonomous in the sense that they 
are no longer inseparable from the objects which they formed 
and thereby made available to our purposes. They come to play 
freely in themselves and for their own sake; they produce or 
make use of materials that exclusively serve their own operation 
or realization. 

For instance, originally all cognition appears to have been 
a means in the struggle for existence. Exact knowledge of the 
behavior of things is, in fact, of extraordinary utility for the 
maintenance and promotion of life. Yet cognition is no longer 
used in the service of this practical achievement: science has 
become a value in itself. It quite autonomously chooses its ob- 
jects, shapes them according to its own needs, and is interested 
in nothing beyond its own perfection. Another example: the 

42 Sociability 

interpretation of realities, concrete or abstract, in terms of spatial 
systems, or of rhythms or sounds, or of significance and organiza- 
tion, certainly had its origins in practical needs. Yet these inter- 
pretations have become purposes in themselves, effective on 
their own strength and in their own right, selective and creative 
quite independently of their entanglement with practical life, 
and not because of it. This is the origin of art. Fully established, 
art is wholly separated from life. It takes from it only what it 
can use, thus creating itself, as it were, a second time. And yet 
the forms by means of which it does this and of which it actually 
consists, were produced by the exigencies and the very dynamics 
of life. 

The same dialectic determines the nature of law. The re- 
quirements of social existence compel or legitimate certain types 
of individual behavior which thus are valid and followed, pre- 
cisely because they meet these practical requirements. Yet with 
the emergence of “law,** this reason for their diffusion recedes 
into the background: now they are followed simply because they 
have become the “law,** and quite independently of the life 
which originally engendered and directed them. The furthest 
pole of this development is expressed by the idea of ''fiat justitia, 
pereat mundus** [justice be done, even if the world perish]. In 
other words, although lawful behavior has its roots in the pur- 
poses of social life, law, properly speaking, has no “purpose,** 
since it is not a means to an ulterior end. On the contrary, it 
determines, in its own right and not by legitimation through 
any higher, extrinsic agency, how the contents of life should be 

This complete turnover, from the determination of the forms 
by the materials of life to the determination of its materials by 
forms that have become supreme values, is perhaps most exten- 
sively at work in the numerous phenomena that we lump to- 
gether under the category of play. Actual forces, needs, impulses 
of life produce the forms of our behavior that are suitable for 
play. These forms, however, become independent contents and 
stimuli within play itself or, rather, as play. There are, for in- 
stance, the hunt; the gain by ruse; the proving of physical and 
intellectual strength; competition; and the dependence on 
chance and on the favor of powers that cannot be influenced. 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 4S 

All these forms are lifted out of the flux of life and freed of their 
material with its inherent gravity. On their own decision, they 
choose or create the objects in which they prove or embody 
themselves in their purity. This is what gives play both its gaiety 
and the symbolic significance by which it is distinguished from 
mere joke. Here lies whatever may justify the analogy between 
art and play. In both art and play, forms that were originally 
developed by the realities of life, have created spheres that pre- 
serve their autonomy in the face of these realities. It is from their 
origin, which keeps them permeated with life, that they draw 
their depth and strength. Where they are emptied of life, they 
become artifice and “empty play,“ respectively. Yet their sig- 
nificance and their very nature derive from that fundamental 
change through which the forms engendered by the purposes and 
materials of life, are separated from them, and themselves be- 
come the purpose and the material of their own existence. From 
the realities of life they take only what they can adapt to their 
own nature, only what they can absorb in their autonomous 

§ 3, Sociability as the Autonomous Form, or 
Play-Form, of Sociation 

This process also is at work in the separation of what I have 
called content and form in societal existence. Here, “society,” 
properly speaking, is that being with one another, for one an- 
other, against one another which, through the vehicle of drives 
or purposes, forms and develops material or individual contents 
and interests. The forms in which this process results gain their 
own life. It is freed from all ties with contents. It exists for its 
own sake and for the sake of the fascination which, in its own 
liberation from these ties, it diffuses. It is precisely the phenome- 
non that we call sociability. 

Certainly, specific needs and interests make men band to- 
gether in economic associations, blood brotherhoods, religious 
societies, hordes of bandits. Yet in addition to their specific con- 
tents, all these sociations are also characterized, precisely, by a 
feeling, among their members, of being sociated and by the 
satisfaction derived from this. Sociates feel that the formation 

44 Sociability 

of a society as such is a value; they are driven toward this form 
of existence. In fact, it sometimes is only this drive itself that 
suggests the concrete contents of a particular sociation. What 
may be called the art drive, extracts out of the totality of phe- 
nomena their mere form, in order to shape it into specific struc- 
tures that correspond to this drive. In similar fashion, out of the 
realities of social life, the “sociability drive” extracts the pure 
process of sociation as a cherished value; and thereby it con- 
stitutes sociability in the stricter sense of the word. It is no mere 
accident of linguistic usage that even the most primitive so- 
ciability, if it is of any significance and duration at all, places 
so much emphasis on form, on “good form.” For form is the 
mutual determination and interaction of the elements of the 
association. It is form by means of which they create a unit. The 
actual, life-conditioned motivations of sociation are of no sig- 
nificance to sociability. It is, therefore, understandable that the 
pure form, the individuals* suspended, interacting interre- 
latedness (we might say), is emphasized the more strongly and 

Sociability is spared the frictions with reality by its merely 
formal relation to it. Yet just because of this, it derives from 
reality, even to the mind of the more sensitive person, a sig- 
nificance and a symbolic, playful richness of life that are the 
greater, the more perfect it is. A superficial rationalism always 
looks for this richness among concrete contents only. Since it does 
not find it there, it dispenses with sociability as a shallow foolish- 
ness. Yet it cannot be without significance that in many, perhaps 
in all European languages, “society” simply designates a sociable 
gathering. Certainly, the political, economic, the purposive so- 
ciety of whatever description, is a “society.” But only the “so- 
ciable society’* is “a society” without qualifying adjectives.^ It is 
this, precisely because it represents the pure form that is raised 
above all contents such as characterize those more “concrete” 
“societies.” It gives us an abstract image in which all contents 
are dissolved in the mere play of form. 

***G€sellschaft** is both “society” and “party” (in the sense of “social, or 
sociable, gathering”). — Tr. 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 45 


As a sociological category, I thus designate sociability as the 
play-form of sociation. Its relation to content-determined, con- 
crete sociation is similar to that of the work of art to reality. The 
great, perhaps the greatest, problem of society finds in it a solu- 
tion which is possible nowhere else. This problem is the question 
concerning the proportions of significance and weight that, in 
the total life of the individual, are properly his, and properly 
those of his social sphere's. Inasmuch as in the purity of its mani- 
festations, sociability has no objective purpose, no content, no 
extrinsic results, it entirely depends on the personalities among 
whom it occurs. Its aim is nothing but the success of the sociable 
moment and, at most, a memory of it. Hence the conditions and 
results of the process of sociability are exclusively the persons 
who find themselves at a social gathering. Its character is de- 
termined by such personal qualities as amiability, refinement, 
cordiality, and many other sources of attraction. But precisely 
because everything depends on their personalities, the partici- 
pants are not permitted to stress them too conspicuously. Where 
specific interests (in cooperation or collision) determine the 
social form, it is these interests that prevent the individual from 
presenting his peculiarity and uniqueness in too unlimited and 
independent a manner. Where there are no such interests, their 
function must be taken over by other conditions. In sociability, 
these derive from the mere form of the gathering. Without the 
reduction of personal poignancy and autonomy brought about 
by this form, the gathering itself would not be possible. Tact^ 
therefore, is here of such a peculiar significance: where no ex- 
ternal or immediate egoistic interests direct the self-regulation 
of the individual in his personal relations with others, it is tact 
that fulfills this regulatory function. Perhaps its most essential 
task is to draw the limits, which result from the claims of others, 
of the individual's impulses, ego-stresses, and intellectual and 
material desires. 

Sociability emerges as a very peculiar sociological structure. 
The fact is that whatever the participants in the gathering may 
possess in terms of objective attributes — attributes that are cen- 
tered outside the particular gathering in question — must not 

46 Sociability 

enter it. Wealth, social position, erudition, fame, exceptional 
capabilities and merits, may not play any part in sociability. At 
most they may perform the role of mere nuances of that imma- 
terial character with which reality alone, in general, is allowed 
to enter the social work of art called sociability. But in addition 
to these objective elements that, as it were, surround the per- 
sonality, the purely and deeply personal traits of one's life, char- 
acter, mood, and fate must likewise be eliminated as factors in 
sociability. It is tactless, because it militates against interaction 
which monopolizes sociability, to display merely personal moods 
of depression, excitement, despondency — in brief, the light and 
the darkness of one’s most intimate life. This exclusion of the 
most personal element extends even to certain external features 
of behavior. Thus, for instance, at an intimately personal and 
friendly meeting with one or several men, a lady would not 
appear in as low-cut a dress as she wears without any embarrass- 
ment at a larger party. The reason is that at the party she does 
not feel involved as an individual to the same extent as she does 
at the more intimate gathering, and that she can therefore afford 
to abandon herself as if in the impersonal freedom of a mask: 
although being only herself she is yet not wholly herself, but 
only an element in a group that is held together formally. 

[b] “sociability thresholds” 

Man in his totality is a dynamic complex of ideas, forces, and 
possibilities. According to the motivations and relations of life 
and its changes, he makes of himself a differentiated and clearly 
defined phenomenon. As an economic and political man, as a 
family member, and as the representative of an occupation he is, 
as it were, an elaboration constructed ad hoc. In each of these 
capacities, the material of his life is determined by a particular 
idea and is cast into a particular form. Yet, the relative autonomy 
of his roles feeds on a common source of his energy, which is 
difficult to label. Sociable man, too, is a peculiar phenomenon; 
it exists nowhere except in sociable relations. On the one hand, 
man has here cast off all objective qualifications of his per- 
sonality. He enters the form of sociability equipped only with 
the capacities, attractions, and interests with which his pure 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 47 

human-ness provides him. On the other hand, however, socia- 
bility also Shies away from the entirely subjective and purely 
inwardly spheres of his personality. Discretion, which is the first 
condition of sociability in regard to one’s behavior toward others, 
is equally much required in regard to one’s dealing with oneself: 
in both cases, its violation causes the sociological art form of 
sociability to degenerate into a sociological naturalism. One thus 
may speak of the individual’s upper and lower ''sociability 
thresholds/' These thresholds are passed both when individuals 
interact from motives of objective content and purpose and 
when their entirely personal and subjective aspects make them- 
selves felt. In both cases, sociability ceases to be the central and 
formative principle of their sociation and becomes, at best, a 
formalistic, superficially mediating connection. 


Perhaps it is possible, however, to find the positive formal 
motive of sociability which corresponds to its negative determi- 
nation by limits and thresholds. As the foundation of law, Kant 
posited the axjom that each individual should possess freedom 
to the extent which is compatible with the freedom of every 
other individual. If we apply this principle to the sociability 
drive (as the source or substance of sociability itself), we might 
say that each individual ought to have as much satisfaction of 
this drive as is compatible with its satisfaction on the part of all 
others. We can also express this thought not in terms of the so- 
ciability drive itself but in terms of its results. We then formulate 
the principle of sociability as the axiom that each individual 
should offer the maximum of sociable values (of joy, relief, liveli- 
ness, etc.) that is compatible with the maximum of values he 
himself receives. 

Just as Kant’s law is thoroughly democratic, this principle, 
too, shows the democratic structure of all sociability. Yet, this 
democratic character can be realized only within a given social 
stratum: sociability among members of very different social 
strata often is inconsistent and painful. Equality, as we have seen, 
results from the elimination of both the wholly personal and 

48 Sociability 

the wholly objective, that is, from the elimination of the very 
material of sociation from which sociation is freed when it takes 
on the form of sociability. Yet the democracy of sociability even 
among social equals is only something played. Sociability, if one 
will, creates an ideal sociological world in which the pleasure 
of the individual is closely tied up with the pleasure of the others. 
In principle, nobody can find satisfaction here if it has to be at 
the cost of diametrically opposed feelings which the other may 
have. This possibility, to be sure, is excluded by many social 
forms other than sociability. In all of these, however, it is ex- 
cluded through some superimposed ethical imperative. In socia- 
bility alone is it excluded by the intrinsic principle of the social 
form itself. 


Yet, this world of sociability — the only world in which a 
democracy of the equally privileged is possible without fric- 
tions — is an artificial world. It is composed of individuals who 
have no other desire than to create wholly pure interaction with 
others which is not disbalanced by a stress of anything material. 
We may have the erroneous notion that we enter sociability 
purely '‘as men,’' as what we really are, without all the burdens, 
conflicts, all the too-much and too-little which in actual life dis- 
turb the purity of our images. We may get this notion because 
modern life is overburdened with objective contents and exi- 
gencies. And forgetting these daily encumbrances at a social 
gathering, we fancy ourselves to return to our natural-personal 
existence. But under this impression we also forget that sociable 
man is constituted by this personal aspect, not in its specific 
character and in its naturalistic completeness, but only in a cer- 
tain reservedness and stylization. In earlier periods of history, 
sociable man did not have to be wrested from so many objective 
and contentual claims. His form, therefore, emerged more fully 
and distinctly in contrast with his personal existence: behavior 
at a social gathering was much stiffer, more ceremonial, and more 
severely regulated super-individually than it is today. This reduc- 
tion of the personal character which homogeneous interaction 
with others imposes on the individual may even make him lean 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 49 

over backward, if we may say so: a characteristically sociable be- 
havior trait is the courtesy with which the strong and extraordi- 
nary individual not only makes himself the equal of the weaker, 
but even acts as if the weaker were the more valuable and 

If sociation itself is interaction, its purest and most stylized 
expression occurs among equals — as symmetry and balance are 
the most plausible forms of artistic stylization. Inasmuch as it is 
abstracted from sociation through art or play, sociability thus 
calls for the purest, most transparent, and most casually appeal- 
ing kind of interaction, that among equals. Because of its very 
nature, it must create human beings who give up so much of their 
objective contents and who so modify their external and internal 
significance as to become sociable equals. Each of them must 
gain for himself sociability values only if the others with whom 
he interacts also gain them. Sociability is the game in which one 
‘'does as if’* all were equal, and at the same time, as if one honored 
each of them in particular. And to “do as if” is no more a lie 
than play or art are lies because of their deviation from reality. 
The game becomes a lie only when sociable action and speech are 
made into mere instruments of the intentions and events of 
practical realty — just as a painting becomes a lie when it tries, 
in a panoramic effect, to simulate reality. What is perfectly cor- 
rect and in order if practised within the autonomous life of so- 
ciability with its self-contained play of forms, becomes a decep- 
tive lie when it is guided by non-sociable purposes or is designed 
to disguise such purposes. The actual entanglement of sociability 
with the events of real life surely makes such a deception often 
very tempting. 


The connection between sociability and play explains why 
sociability should cover all phenomena that already by them- 
selves may be considered sociological play-forms. This refers 
above all to games proper, which in the sociability of all times 
have played a conspicuous role. The expression ''social game” 
is significant in the deeper sense to which I have already called 
attention. All the forms of interaction or sociation among men — 
the wish to outdo, exchange, the formation of parties, the desire 

50 Sociability 

to wrest something from the other, the hazards of accidental 
meetings and separations, the change between enmity and co- 
operation, the overpowering by ruse and revenge — in the seri- 
ousness of reality, all of these are imbued with purposive con- 
tents. In the game, they lead their own lives; they are propelled 
exclusively by their own attraction. For even where the game 
involves a monetary stake, it is not the money (after all, it could 
be acquired in many ways other than gambling) that is the 
specific characteristic of the game. To the person who really 
enjoys it, its attraction rather lies in the dynamics and hazards 
of the sociologically significant forms of activity themselves. The 
more profound, double sense of ''social game*’ is that not only 
the game is played in a society (as its external medium) but that, 
with its help, people actually ''play** "society.** 


In the sociology of sex, we find a play-form: the play-form of 
eroticism is coquetry. In sociability, it finds its most facile, play- 
ful, and widely diffused realization.® Generally speaking, the 
erotic question between the sexes is that of offer and refusal. Its 
objects are, of course, infinitely varied and graduated, and by no 
means mere either-ors, much less exclusively physiological. The 
nature of feminine coquetry is to play up, alternately, allusive 
promises and allusive withdrawals — to attract the male but 
always to stop short of a decision, and to reject him but never 
to deprive him of all hope. The coquettish woman enormously 
enhances her attractiveness if she shows her consent as an almost 
immediate possibility but is ultimately not serious about it. Her 
behavior swings back and forth between “yes’* and "no** without 
stopping at either. She playfully exhibits the pure and simple 
form of erotic decisions and manages to embody their polar 
opposites in a perfectly consistent behavior: its decisive, well- 
understood content, that would commit her to one of the two 
opposites, does not even enter. 

This freedom from all gravity of immutable contents and 
permanent realities gives coquetry the character of suspension, 

5 1 have treated coquetry extensively in my book, Philosophische Kultur 
[Philosophic Culture]. 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 51 

distance, ideality, that has led one to speak, with a certain right, 
of its ‘‘art,” not only of its “artifices.” Yet in order for coquetry 
to grow on the soil of sociability, as we know from experience 
it does, it must meet with a specific behavior on the part of the 
male. As long as he rejects its attractions or, inversely, is its mere 
victim that without any will of his own is dragged along by its 
vacillations between a half “yes” and a half “no,” coquetry has 
not yet assumed for him the form that is commensurate with 
sociability. For it lacks the free interaction and equivalence of 
elements that are the fundamental traits of sociability. It does 
not attain these until he asks for no more than this freely sus- 
pended play which only dimly reflects the erotically definitive as 
a remote symbol; until he is no longer attracted by the lust for the 
erotic element or by the fear of it which is all he can see in the 
coquettish allusions and preliminaries. Coquetry that unfolds 
its charms precisely at the height of sociable civilization has left 
far behind the reality of erotic desire, consent, or refusal; it is 
embodied in the interaction of the mere silhouettes, as it were, of 
their serious imports. Where they themselves enter or are con- 
stantly present in the background, the whole process becomes a 
private affair between two individuals: it takes place on the plane 
of reality. But under the sociological sign of sociability from 
which the center of the personality's concrete and complete life 
is barred, coquetry is the flirtatious, perhaps ironical play, in 
which eroticism has freed the bare outline of its interactions from 
their materials and contents and personal features. As sociability 
plays with the forms of society, so coquetry plays with those of 
eroticism, and this affinity of their natures predestines coquetry 
as an element of sociability. 


Outside sociability, the sociological forms of interaction are 
significant in terms of their contents. Sociability abstracts these 
forms and supplies them — ^which circle around themselves, as 
it were — ^with shadowy bodies. The extent to which it attains this 
aim — becomes evident, finally, in conversation, the most general 
vehicle for all that men have in common. The decisive point 
here can be introduced by stressing the very trivial experience 

52 Sociability 

that people talk seriously because of some content they want to 
communicate or come to an understanding about, while at a 
social gathering they talk for the sake of talking. There, talk be- 
comes its own purpose; but not in the naturalistic sense that 
would make it mere chatter, but as the art of conversation that 
has its own, artistic laws. In purely sociable conversation, the 
topic is merely the indispensable medium through which the 
lively exchange of speech itself unfolds its attractions. All the 
forms in which this exchange is realized — quarrel, appeal to 
norms recognized by both parties, pacification by compromise 
and by discovery of common convictions, grateful acceptance of 
the new, and covering up of anything on which no understanding 
can be hoped for — all these forms usually are in the service of 
the countless contents and purposes of human life. But here, they 
derive their significance from themselves, from the fascinating 
play of relations which they create among the participants, join- 
ing and loosening, winning and succumbing, giving and taking. 
The double sense of **sich unterhalten*' ® becomes understand- 
able. For conversation to remain satisfied with mere form it can- 
not allow any content to become significant in its own right. As 
soon as the discussion becomes objective, as soon as it makes the 
ascertainment of a truth its purpose (it may very well be its con- 
tent), it ceases to be sociable and thus becomes untrue to its own 
nature — as much as if it degenerated into a serious quarrel. The 
form of the ascertainment of a truth or of a quarrel may exist, 
but the seriousness of their contents may as little become the 
focus of sociable conversation as a perspectivistic painting may 
contain a piece of the actual, three-dimensional reality of its 

This does not imply that the content of sociable conversation 
is indifferent. On the contrary, it must be interesting, fascinating, 
even important. But it may not become the purpose of the con- 
versation, which must never be after an objective result. The 
objective result leads an ideal existence, as it were, outside of it. 
Therefore, of two externally similar conversations, only that is 

• This double sense is not obvious in English. *'Unterhalten” literally is “to 

hold under/' “to sustain." Customarily, however, **sich unterhalten'* is “to enter- 
tain or enjoy oneself," as well as “to converse.” This is the double sense Simmel 
emphasizes. — Tr. 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 53 

(properly speaking) sociable, in which the topic, in spite of all 
its value and attraction, finds its right, place, and purpose only 
in the functional play of the conversation itself that sets its own 
norms and has its own peculiar significance. The ability to 
change topics easily and quickly is therefore part of the nature 
of social conversation. For since the topic is merely a means, it 
exhibits all the fortuitousness and exchangeability that charac- 
terize all means as compared with fixed ends. As has already been 
mentioned, sociability presents perhaps the only case in which 
talk is its own legitimate purpose. Talk presupposes two parties; 
it is two-way. In fact, among all sociological phenomena what- 
ever, with the possible exception of looking at one another, talk 
is the purest and most sublimated form of two-way-ness. It thus 
is the fulfillment of a relation that wants to be nothing but 
relation — in which, that is, what usually is the mere form of 
interaction becomes its self-sufficient content. Hence even the 
telling of stories, jokes, and anecdotes, though often only a 
pastime if not a testimonial of intellectual poverty, can show all 
the subtle tact that reflects the elements of sociability. It keeps 
the conversation away from individual intimacy and from all 
purely personal elements that cannot be adapted to sociable re- 
quirements. ^nd yet, objectivity is cultivated not for the sake of 
any particular content but only in the interest of sociability 
itself. The telling and reception of stories, etc., is not an end in 
itself but only a means for the liveliness, harmony, and common 
consciousness of the ' ‘party. It not only provides a content in 
which all can participate alike; it also is a particular individual’s 
gift to the group — but a gift behind which its giver becomes 
invisible: the subtlest and best-told stories are those from which 
the narrator’s personality has completely vanished. The perfect 
anecdote attains a happy equilibrium of sociable ethics, as it 
were, with its complete absorption of both subjective-individual 
and objective-contentual elements in the service of pure sociable 


Thus sociability also emerges as the play-form of the ethical 
forces in concrete society. In particular, there are two problems 

54 Sociability 

that must be solved by these forces. One is the fact that the 
individual has to function as part of a collective for which he 
lives; but that, in turn, he derives his own values and improve- 
ments from this collective. The other is the fact that the life 
of the individual is a roundabout route for the purposes of the 
whole; but that the life of the whole, in turn, has this same 
function for the purposes of the individual. Sociability transfers 
the serious, often tragic character of these problems into the 
symbolic play of its shadowy realm which knows no frictions, 
since shadows, being what they are, cannot collide. Another 
ethical task of sociation is to make the joining and breaking-up 
of sociated individuals the exact reflection of the relations 
among these individuals, although these relations are spon- 
taneously determined by life in its totality. In sociability, this 
freedom to form relations and this adequacy of their expression 
are relieved of any concrete contentual determinants. The ways 
in which groups form and split up and in which conversations, 
called forth by mere impulse and occasion, begin, deepen, loosen, 
and terminate at a social gathering give a miniature picture of 
the societal ideal that might be called the freedom to be tied 
down. If all convergence and divergence are strictly commensur- 
ate with inner realities, at a “party” they exist in the absence of 
these realities. There is left nothing but a phenomenon whose 
play obeys the laws of its own form and whose charm is contained 
in itself. It shows aesthetically that same commensurateness 
which those inner realities require as ethical commensurateness. 


Our general conception of sociability is well illustrated by 
certain historical developments. In the early German Middle 
Ages, there existed brotherhoods of knights. They consisted of 
patrician families that entertained friendly relations with one 
another. The originally religious and practical purposes of these 
groups seem to have been lost fairly early. By the fourteenth 
century, knightly interests and ways of behavior alone were left 
as their contentual characteristics. Soon afterward, however, even 
they disappeared, and there remained nothing but purely so- 
ciable aristocratic associations. Here then, evidently, is a case 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 55 

where sociability developed as the residuum of a society that had 
been determined by its content. It is a residuum which, since all 
content was lost, could consist only of the form and forms of 
reciprocal behavior. 

The fact that the autonomy of such forms is bound to exhibit 
the nature of play or, more deeply, of art, becomes even more 
striking in the courtly society of the Ancien Regime. Here, the 
disappearance of any concrete content of life — ^which royalty, 
so to speak, had sucked out of French aristocracy — ^resulted in 
the emergence of certain freely suspended forms. The conscious- 
ness of the nobility became crystallized in them. Their forces, 
characteristics, and relations were purely sociable. They were 
by no means symbols or functions of any real significances or 
intensities of persons and institutions. The etiquette of courtly 
society had become a value in itself. It no longer referred to any 
content; it had developed its own, intrinsic laws, which were 
comparable to the laws of art. The laws of art are valid only in 
terms of art: by no means have they the purpose of imitating the 
reality of the models, of things outside of art itself. 



In the Ancien Regime ^ sociability attained perhaps its most 
sovereign expression. At the same time, however, this expression 
came close to being its own caricature. Certainly, it is the nature 
of sociability to free concrete interactions from any reality and 
to erect its airy realm according to the form-laws of these rela- 
tions, which come to move in themselves and to recognize no 
purpose extraneous to them. Yet the deep spring which feeds this 
realm and its play does not lie in these forms, but exclusively in 
the vitality of concrete individuals, with all their feelings and 
attractions, convictions and impulses. Sociability is a symbol of 
life as life emerges in the flux of a facile and happy play; yet it 
also is a symbol of life. It does not change the image of life beyond 
the point required by its own distance to it. In like manner, if 
it is not to strike one as hollow and false, even the freest and most 
fantastic art, however far it is from any copying of reality, never- 
theless feeds on a deep and loyal relation to this reality. Art, too, 
is above life, but it is also above life. If sociability entirely cuts 

56 Sociability 

its ties with the reality of life out of which it makes its own fabric 
(of however different a style), it ceases to be a play and becomes 
a desultory playing-around with empty forms, a lifeless schema- 
tism which is even proud of its lifelessness. 

Our discussion shows that people both rightly and wrongly 
lament the superficiality of sociable intercourse. To account for 
this, we must remember and appreciate one of the most impres- 
sive characteristics of intellectual life. This is the fact that if 
certain elements are taken out of the totality of existence and 
united into a whole that lives by its own laws and not by those 
of the totality, it shows, if it is completely severed from the life 
of that totality, a hollow and rootless nature, in spite of all in- 
trinsic perfection. And yet, and often only by an imponderable 
change, this same whole, in its very distance from immediate 
reality, may more completely, consistently, and realistically re- 
veal the deepest nature of this reality than could any attempt at 
grasping it more directly. Applying this consideration to the 
phenomenon of sociability, we understand that we may have two 
different reactions to it. Accordingly, the independent and self- 
regulated life, which the superficial aspects of social interaction 
attain in sociability, will strike us as a formula-like and irrelevant 
lifelessness, or as a symbolic play whose aesthetic charms embody 
the finest and subtlest dynamics of broad, rich social existence. 

In regard to art, in regard to all the symbolism of religious 
and church life, and to a large extent even in regard to the formu- 
lations of science, we depend on a certain faith, or feeling, which 
assures us that the intrinsic norms of fragments or the combina- 
tions of superficial elements do possess a connection with the 
depth and wholeness of reality. Although it can often not be 
formulated, it nevertheless is this connection which makes of 
fragments embodiments and representations of the immediately 
real and fundamental life. It accounts for the redeeming and 
relieving effect that some of the realms, constructed of mere 
forms of life, have on us: although in them we are unburdened 
of life, we nevertheless have it. Thus, the view of the sea frees us 
internally, not in spite, but because of the fact that the swelling 
and ebbing and the play and counterplay of the waves stylize life 
into the simplest expression of its dynamics. This expression is 
quite free from all experienceable reality and from all the gravity 

Sociability as the Autonomous Form of Sociation 57 

of individual fate, whose ultimate significance seems yet to flow 
into this picture of the sea. Art similarly seems to reveal the 
mystery of life, the fact, that is, that we cannot be relieved of life 
by merely looking away from it, but only by shaping and ex- 
periencing the sense and the forces of its deepest reality in the 
unreal and seemingly quite autonomous play of its forms. 

To so many serious persons who are constantly exposed to the 
pressures of life, sociability could not offer any liberating, reliev- 
ing, or serene aspects if it really were nothing but an escape from 
life or a merely momentary suspension of life’s seriousness. 
Perhaps it often is no more than a negative conventionalism, an 
essentially lifeless exchange of formulas. Perhaps it frequently 
was this in the Ancien Regime when the numb fear of a threaten- 
ing reality forced men merely to look away and to sever all rela- 
tions with it. Yet it is precisely the more serious person who 
derives from sociability a feeling of liberation and relief. He can 
do so because he enjoys here, as if in an art play, a concentration 
and exchange of effects that present all the tasks and all the 
seriousness of life in a sublimation and, at the same time, dilu- 
tion, in which the content-laden forces of reality reverberate only 
dimly, since their gravity has evaporated into mere attractiveness. 

Chapter 4 

Individual and Society in 
Eighteenth- and Nineteenth- 
Century Views of Life 

An Example of Philosophical Sociology 

§ 1 - 

Individual Life as the Basis of the Conflict 
between Individual and Society 


problem of society is the relation between its forces and forms 
and the individual’s own life. The question is not whether society 
exists only in the individuals or also outside of them. For even if 
we attribute ''life,” properly speaking, only to individuals, and 
identify the life of society with that of its individual members, 
we must still admit the existence of conflict between the two. 
One reason for this conflict is the fact that, in the individuals 
themselves, social elements fuse into the particular phenomenon 
called "society.” "Society” develops its own vehicles and organs 
by whose claims and commands the individual is confronted as 
by an alien party. A second reason results from another aspect of 
the inherency of society in the individual. For man has the 
capacity to decompose himself into parts and to feel any one of 
these as his proper seif. Yet each part may collide with any other 
and may struggle for the dominion over the individual’s actions. 
This capacity places man, insofar as he feels himself to be a social 
being, into an often contradictory relation with those among his 
impulses and interests that are not preempted by his social char- 
acter. In other words, the conflict between society and individual 


Individual Egoism vs. Individual Self-Perfection 59 

is continued in the individual himself as the conflict among his 
component parts. Thus, it seems to me, the basic struggle between 
society and individual inheres in the general form of individual 
life. It does not derive from any single, '‘anti-social,” individual 

Society strives to be a whole, an organic unit of which the 
individuals must be mere members. Society asks of the individual 
that he employ all his strength in the service of the special func- 
tion which he has to exercise as a member of it; that he so modify 
himself as to become the most suitable vehicle for this function. 
Yet the drive toward unity and wholeness that is characteristic 
of the individual himself rebels against this role. The individual 
strives to be rounded out in himself, not merely to help to round 
out society. He strives to develop his full capacities, irrespective 
of the shifts among them that the interest of society may ask of 
him. This conflict between the whole, which imposes the one- 
sidedness of partial function upon its elements, and the part, 
which itself strives to be a whole, is insoluble. No house can be 
built of houses, but only of specially formed stones; no tree can 
grow from trees, but only from differentiated cells. 

§ 2 . Individml Egoism vs. Individual Self-Perfection 
as an Objective Value 

The formulation presented seems to me to describe the con- 
trast between the two parties much more comprehensively than 
does its customary reduction to the egoism-altruism dichotomy. 
On the one hand, the individual’s striving for wholeness appears 
as egoism, which is contrasted with the altruism of his ordering 
himself into society as a selectivity formed social member of it. 
Yet on the other hand, the very quest of society is an egoism that 
does violence to the individual for the benefit and utility of the 
many, and that often makes for an extremely one-sided indi- 
vidual specialization, and even atrophy. Finally, the individual’s 
urge toward self-perfection is not necessarily an expression of 
egoism. It may also be an objective ideal whose goal is by no 
means success in terms of happiness and narrowly personal in- 
terests but a super-personal value realized in the personality. 

What has just l^en suggested — ^and what will be elaborated 

60 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

presently — appears to me to exemplify a very significant stage in 
the development of cultural-philosophical consciousness. It also 
throws new light on the ethics of the individual and, indirectly, 
on the ethics of society. It is popularly held that all intentions 
which do not break through the orbit of the individual existence 
and interest are of an egoistic nature, and that egoism is overcome 
only when concern shifts toward the welfare of the Thou or of 
society. Yet it is already some time that a deeper reflection on the 
values of life has ascertained a third alternative, most impres- 
sively perhaps in the figures of Goethe and Nietzsche (though not 
in any abstract formula). It is the possibility that the perfection 
of the individual as such constitutes an objective value, quite 
irrespective of its significance for any other individuals, or in 
merely accidental connection with it. This value, moreover, 
may exist in utter disregard for the happiness or unhappiness of 
this individual himself, or may even be in conflict with them. 
What a person represents in terms of strength, nobility of charac- 
ter, achievement, or harmony of life, is very often quite unre- 
lated to what he or others ‘‘get out'* of these qualities. All that 
can be said about them is that the world is enriched by the 
existence in it of a valuable human being who is perfect in him- 
self. Certainly, his value often consists in his practical devotion 
to other individuals or groups; but to limit it to this would be to 
proceed by an arbitrary moralistic dogma. For, beauty and per- 
fection of life, the working upon oneself, the passionate efforts to 
obtain ideal goods, do not always result in happiness. These 
efforts and aims are inspired by certain world values, and may 
have no other effect than to create and maintain a particular 
attitude in the individual consciousness. 

Countless times, the individual craves situations, events, in- 
sights, achievements, in whose particular existence or general 
nature he simply sees ultimately satisfactory aims. Occasionally 
the content of such cravings may be the improvement or well- 
being of others. But not necessarily: the aim is striven after for 
the sake of its own realization; and, therefore, to sacrifice others 
or even oneself may not be too high a price. **Fiat justitia, pereat 
mundus*'; the fulfillment of divine will merely because it is 
divine; the fanaticism of the artist, completion of whose work 
makes him forget any other consideration, altruistic or egoistic; 

The Social vs. the Human 61 

the political idealist’s enthusiasm for a constitutional reform that 
renders him entirely indifferent to the question of how the citi- 
zens would fare under it — these are examples of purely objective 
valuations that permeate even the most trivial contents. The act- 
ing individual feels himself to be only the object or executor — 
who at bottom is accidental — of the task his cause puts to him. 
The passion for this cause is as little concerned with the I, Thou, 
or society as the value of the state of the world can be measured 
in terms of the world’s pleasure or suffering (although it can, 
of course, be partly so measured). Yet, evidently, the claims 
made by individuals or groups, insofar as they, too, are agents of 
ultimate values, do not necessarily coincide with the individual’s 
striving after such objective values. Particularly if he tries to 
realize a value either in himself or in an accomplishment that 
is unappreciated socially, the super-egoistic nature of his pro- 
cedure is not rewarded by society. Society claims the individual 
for itself. It wants to make of him a form that it can incorporate 
into its own structure. And this societal claim is often so incom- 
patible with the claim imposed on the individual by his striving 
after an objective value, as only a purely egoistic claim can be 
incompatible with a purely social one. 

§ 3. The Social vs. the Human 

The stage reached by the interpretation presented certainly 
goes beyond the customary contrast between egoism and altru- 
ism, as I have already pointed out. But even this interpretation 
cannot resolve the basic contrast between individual and society. 
And a related contrast that deals with the same content but 
springs from another ultimate world view is suggested by the 
modem analysis of certain sociological concepts. 

Society — and its representative in the individual, social-ethi- 
cal conscience — very often imposes a specialization upon him. 
I have already called attention to the fact that this specialization 
not only leaves undeveloped, or destroys, his harmonious whole- 
ness. What is more, it often foists contents on the individual that 
are wholly inimical to the qualities usually called general-human. 
Nietzsche seems to have been the first to feel, with fundamental 
distinctness, the difference between the interest of humanity, of 

62 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

mankind, and the interest of society. Society is but one of the 
forms in which mankind shapes the contents of its life, but it is 
neither essential to all forms nor is it the only one in which 
human development is realized. All purely objective realms in 
which we are involved in whatever way — logical cognition or 
metaphysical imagination, the beauty of life or its image in the 
sovereignty of art, the realms of religion or of nature — none of 
these, to the extent to which they become our intimate posses- 
sions, has intrinsically and essentially anything whatever to do 
with “society.” The human values that are measured by our 
greater or smaller stakes in these ideal realms have a merely 
accidental relation to social values, however often they intersect 
with them. 

On the other hand, purely personal qualities — strength, 
beauty, depth of thought, greatness of conviction, kindness, 
nobility of character, courage, purity of heart — have their au- 
tonomous significance which likewise is entirely independent of 
their social entanglements. They are values of human existence. 
As such they are profoundly different from social values, which 
always rest upon the individual’s effects. At the same time, they 
certainly are elements, both as effects and causes, of the social 
process. But this is only one side of their significance — the other 
is the intrinsic fact of their existence in the personality. For 
Nietzsche, this, strictly speaking, immediate existence of man 
is the criterion by which the level of mankind must be gauged 
at any given moment. For him, all social institutions, all giving 
and receiving by which the individual becomes a social being, 
are mere preconditions or consequences of his own nature. It is 
by virtue of this intrinsic nature that he constitutes a stage in the 
development of mankind. 

Yet utilitarian-social valuation does not entirely depend on 
this intrinsic nature. It also depends on other individuals’ re- 
sponses to it. Thus, the individual’s value does not wholly reside 
in himself: part of it he receives as the reflection of processes and 
creations in which his own nature has fused with beings and 
circumstances outside of him. It is on the basis of this relation 
between him and others that ethics (above all, Kantian ethics) 
has shifted the ground on which to appraise man, from his deeds 
to his attitude. Our value lies in our good will — z certain quality 

The Social vs. the Human 63 

of the ultimate springs of our action that must be left undefined. 
It lies behind all appearance of our actions which, along with the 
effects they may have, are its mere consequences. They some- 
times express it correctly, sometimes distort it — since they are 
mere “phenomena,” they have but an accidental relationship to 
this fundamental value, good will itself. 

Kant’s position was expanded, or conceived more profoundly, 
by Nietzsche. He translated the Kantian contrast between atti- 
tude and success of external action (which already had freed the 
value of the individual from its social dependence) into the 
contrast between the existence and the effect of man in general. 
For Nietzsche, it is the qualitative being of the personality which 
marks the stage that the development of mankind has reached; 
it is the highest exemplars of a given time that carry humanity 
beyond its past. Thus Nietzsche overcame the limitations of 
merely social existence, as well as the valuation of man in terms 
of his sheer effects. It thus is not only quantitatively that mankind 
is more than society. Mankind is not simply the sum of all 
societies: it is an entirely different synthesis of the same elements 
that in other syntheses result in societies. Mankind and societies 
are two different vantage points, as it were, from which the indi- 
vidual can be viewed. They measure him by different standards, 
and their claims on him may be in violent conflict. What ties us 
to mankind and what we may contribute to the development of 
mankind — religious and scientific contributions, inter-family 
and international interests, the aesthetic perfection of person- 
ality, and purely objective production that aims at no “utility” — 
all this, of course, may on occasion also help develop the histori- 
cal society of which we are members. But, essentially, it is rooted 
in claims that go far beyond any given society and that serve 
the elevation and objective enrichment of the type “man” itself. 
They may even be in pointed conflict with the more specific 
claims of the group that for any given man represents “his so- 

In many other respects, however, society promotes a leveling 
of its members. It creates an average and makes it extremely diffi- 
cult for its members to go beyond this average merely through 
the individual excellence in the quantity or quality of life. So- 
ciety requires the individual to differentiate himself from the 

64 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

humanly general, but forbids him to stand out from the socially 
general. The individual is thus doubly oppressed by the stand- 
ards of society: he may not transcend them either in a more 
general or in a more individual direction. In recent historical 
periods, these conflicts into which he falls with his political 
group, with his family, with his economic association, with his 
party, with his religious community, etc., have eventually be- 
come sublimated into the abstract need, as it were, for individual 
freedom. This is the general category that came to cover what 
was common in the various complaints and self-assertions of the 
individual against society. 

The Eighteenth Century 


The need for freedom in general, for the severance of the 
ties between society as such and individual as such, found its 
most highly developed consciousness and its strongest effects in 
the eighteenth century. This fundamental quest can be observed, 
in its economic form, in the Physiocrats' praise of free competi- 
tion of individual interests as the natural order of things; in its 
sentimental elaboration, in Rousseau's notion of the rape of man 
by historical society as the origin of all corruption and evil; in 
its political aspect, in the French Revolution's intensification of 
the idea of individual liberty to the point of prohibiting workers 
from associating even for the protection of their own interests; 
in its philosophical sublimation, in Kant's and Fichte's concep- 
tions of the ego as the bearer of the cognizable world and of its 
absolute autonomy as the moral value as such. The inadequacy 
of the socially accepted forms of life of the eighteenth century, in 
contrast with its material and intellectual productions, struck 
the consciousness of the individual as an unbearable limitation 
of his energies. Examples of these restrictive forms of life are 
the privileges of the higher estates, the despotic control of com- 
merce and life in general, the still potent survivals of the guilds, 
the intolerant coercion by the church, the feudal obligations of 
the peasantry, the political tutelage dominating the life of the 
state, and the weakness of municipal constitutions. The oppres- 
siveness of these and similar institutions which had lost their 

The Eighteenth Century 65 

inner justifications, resulted in the ideal of the mere liberty of 
the individual. It was believed that the removal of these ties, 
which pressed the forces of the personality into unnatural 
grooves, would result in the unfolding of all the inner and outer 
values (that were there potentially, but whose free action was 
paralyzed politically, economically, and religiously), and would 
lead society out of the epoch of historical unreason into that of 
natural reason. Since nature did not know any of these ties, the 
ideal of freedom appeared as that of the “natural’ * state. If na- 
ture is conceived, as the original existence of our species, as well 
as of each individual, as the starting point of the cultural process 
(irrespective of the ambiguity of “original,” which may stand 
for “first in time” or for “essential and basic”), the eighteenth 
century tried to reconnect, in a gigantic synthesis, the end or 
peak of this process with its starting point. The freedom of the 
individual was too empty and weak to carry his existence; since 
historical forces no longer filled and supported it, it could now 
be filled and supported by the idea that it was merely necessary 
to gain this freedom as purely and completely as possible to re- 
capture the original basis of the existence of our species and of 
our personality, a basis which was as certain and fruitful as 
nature itself. 


Yet this need for the freedom of the individual who feels 
himself restricted and deformed by historical society results in a 
self-contradiction once it is put into practice. For evidently, it 
can be put into practice permanently only if society exclusively 
consists of individuals who externally as well as internally are 
equally strong and equally privileged. Yet this condition exists 
nowhere. On the contrary, the power-giving and rank-determin- 
ing forces of men are, in principle, unequal, both qualitatively 
and quantitatively. Therefore, complete freedom necessarily 
leads to the exploitation of this inequality by the more privileged, 
to the exploitation of the stupid by the clever, of the weak 
by the strong, of the timid by the grasping. The elimination of all 
external impediments must result in the expression of different 
inner potentialities in correspondingly different external posi- 
tions. Institutionalized freedom is made illusory by personal 

66 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

relations. Furthermore, since in all power relations an advantage 
once gained facilitates the gaining of additional advantages (the 
'‘accumulation of capital” is merely a specific instance of this 
general proposition), power inequality is bound to expand in 
quick progression, and the freedom of the privileged always and 
necessarily develops at the expense of the freedom of the op- 

For this reason it was quite legitimate to raise the paradoxical 
question whether the socialization of all means of production 
is not the only condition of free competition. For, only by forcibly 
taking from the individual the possibility of fully exploiting his 
superiority over the weaker, can an equal measure of freedom 
reign throughout society. Therefore, if it is this ideal that is 
aimed at, “socialism” does not refer to the suspension of freedom. 
Rather, socialism suspends only that which, at any given degree 
of freedom, becomes the means for suppressing the freedom of 
some in favor of others. This means is private property. It is 
more than the expression of individual differences; it multiplies 
them; it intensifies them to the point, to put it radically, where 
at one pole of the society a maximum of freedom has developed, 
and at the other, a minimum. Full freedom of each can obtain 
only if there is full equality with everybody else. But as long as 
the economic set-up permits the exploitation of personal superi- 
orities, this equality is unattainable both in strictly personal and 
in economic matters. Only when this exploitation is eliminated; 
when, that is, the private ownership of the means of production 
is suspended, is economic equality possible. Only then is there 
no longer a barrier to freedom — a barrier which is inseparable 
from inequality. It is precisely this possibility of exploiting per- 
sonal superiorities which conclusively shows the deep antinomy 
between freedom and equality: the antinomy can be resolved 
only if both are dragged down to the negative level of property- 
lessness and powerlessness. 

In the eighteenth century, only Goethe seems to have seen 
this antinomy with full clarity. Equality, he said, demands sub- 
mission to a general norm; freedom “strives toward the uncondi- 
tional.” “Legislators or revolutionaries,” he pointed out, “who 
promise at the same time equality and freedom are fantasts or 
charlatans.” Perhaps it was an instinctive intuition of this condi- 

The Eighteenth Century 67 

tion which made for the addition, to freedom and equality, of 
a third requirement: fraternity. For the rejection of coercion as 
a means of resolving the contradiction between freedom and 
equality leaves as this means only emphatic altruism. Equality, 
after being destroyed by freedom, can be re-established only 
through the ethical renunciation to utilize natural gifts. Except 
for this notion, however, the typical individualism of the eight- 
eenth century is completely blind to the intrinsic difficulty of 
freedom. The intellectual limitations and the restrictions by 
estates, guilds, and the church, against which it fought, had 
created innumerable inequalities whose injustices were deeply 
felt but were seen to derive from merely external-historical ori- 
gins. The removal of these institutions, which was bound to 
eliminate the inequalities caused by therriy was therefore thought 
to eliminate all inequalities. Freedom and equality thus ap- 
peared as self-evidently harmonious aspects of the same human 

[c] ‘'natural man'* 

This ideal was carried by still another and deeper historical 
current, the peculiar contemporaneous conception of nature. 
In its theoretical interests, the eighteenth century was decisively 
oriented toward the natural sciences. Continuing the work of 
the seventeenth, it established the modern concept of natural 
law as the highest ideal of cognition. This concept, however, 
eliminates individuality, properly speaking. There no longer 
exist the incomparability and indissolubility of the single exis- 
tence, but only the general law. Any phenomenon, be it an indi- 
vidual or a nebula in the Milky Way, is merely one of its instances. 
In spite of the utter unrepeatability of its form, the individual 
is a mere crosspoint and a resolvable pattern of fundamentally 
general laws. This, at least, was the understanding of “nature" 
of the time — only poets understood it differently. For this reason, 
man in general, man as such, is the central interest of the period; 
not historically given, particular, differentiated man. Concrete 
man is reduced to general man: he is the essence of each indi- 
vidual person, just as the universal laws of matter in general are 
embodied in any fragment of matter, however specifically it be 
formed. This argument gives one the right to see freedom and 

68 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

equality together from the beginning. For, the general-human 
man, the natural-law man, exists as the essential core in each 
empirical man, who is individualized by virtue of particular 
qualities, social position, and contingencies. Therefore, all that 
is needed to make appear what is common to all men, or man’s 
essence, or man as such, is to free the individual from all these 
historical influences and distortions which merely hide his deep- 
est nature. 

Thus, the crucial point of this conception of individuality — 
which is one of the great conceptions of intellectual history — is 
this: if man is freed from all that he is not purely himself, if man 
has found himself, there emerges as the proper substance of his 
being, man-as-such or humanity. This humanity lives in all indi- 
viduals. It is their constant, fundamental nature which only 
empirically and historically is disguised, made smaller, distorted. 
Freedom is the expression without restrictions or residues and in 
all domains of existence, of this essence of man, of this central 
ego, of this unconditioned self, which alone reigns over man’s 
existence. In terms of the pure concept of mankind, all men are 
essentially alike. Compared with this general element, all differ- 
entiated individuality is something external and accidental. It is 
the significance of this general element that makes the literature 
of the revolutionary period continuously speak of the '‘people,” 
the “tyrant,” “freedom” in general. It is for this reason that 
the “natural religion” contains providence “as such,” justice “as 
such,” divine education “as such,” but does not recognize the 
right of any specific elaborations or manifestations of these ideas. 
It is for this reason that “natural law” is based on the fiction of 
isolated and similar individuals. Commonness in the sense of 
collective unity has disappeared — ^whether this unity be economic 
or of the church or of the estate or of the state itself. (The only 
function of which the state has not been deprived is the negative 
function of protection, of the prevention of disturbances.) Only 
the free, self-contained individual is left. Historical-social units 
have yielded to the conviction of the generality of human nature, 
which subsists as the essential, inalienable, and always traceable 
characteristic of each individual, and which must only be found 
and pointed out in him to make him perfect. This generality of 
human nature attenuates and makes bearable the isolation of 

The Eighteenth Century 69 

the individual. At the same time, it makes freedom possible as 
an ethical concept, for it appears to eradicate the very develop- 
ment of inequality (which nevertheless is the inevitable conse- 
quence of freedom). In this sense it was possible for Frederick 
the Great to speak of the prince as ‘‘the first judge, the first finan- 
cier, the first minister of society,** but in the same breath, as “a 
man like the least among his subjects.** Thus, eighteenth-century 
individualism made the sociological antinomy between freedom 
and inequality, with which I began my discussion, into an ethical 
paradox, too: the antinomy was conceived as the innermost spring 
of man’s nature, and yet as imposing the renunciation of the 
self. And it also makes it into a religious paradox that is expressed 
in the axiom, “He who loses his soul shall find it.** 


It is in the philosophy of Kant that this conception of indi- 
viduality attains its highest intellectual sublimation. All cogni- 
tion, Kant taught, results from the fact that the intrinsically 
heterogeneous variety of sense impressions is formed into units. 
This unification is possible because the mind, in which it occurs, 
itself is a unit, an ego. The fact that instead of fleeting sensations 
we have a consciousness of objects is the expression of the unifi- 
cation which the ego brings about in these sensations. The object 
is the counterpart of the subject. Thus the ego — not the acci- 
dental, psychological, individual ego, but the fundamental, crea- 
tive, unchangeable ego — becomes the vehicle and producer of 
objectivity. Cognition is objectively true and necessary in the 
measure in which it is formed by this pure ego, the ultimate legis- 
lator of the cognizing mind. From this unshakable assumption of 
one truth, of one objective world, it follows that in all men the 
ego which forms or could form this world, must always be identi- 
cal. Kantian idealism thus makes the knowable world the product 
of the ego. At the same time, it insists on the oneness and per- 
petual identity of true cognition. This idealism is the expression 
of an individualism which sees in all that is human an uncondi- 
tionally identical core. It is forced to hold that, just as the cog- 
nized world is the same for all men, so the deepest productive 
element in all men is homogeneous, even if it is not always equally 
developed or manifest. 

70 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

Thus, for Kant, the identity of the egos results in the identity 
of their worlds. It is in this notion that he also discovers the root 
of freedom. The world can be given only as the representation of 
the idealistic ego, which embodies the absolute independence 
of the person from all extrinsic conditions and determinations. 
Inasmuch as the ego creates all conscious contents of existence — 
and among them, the empirical ego itself — it cannot in turn 
be created by any of them. In Kantian philosophy, the ego has 
wrested its absolute sovereignty from all possible entanglements 
with nature. Thou, society. It stands so much on itself alone that 
even its world, the world, can stand on it. It is no use for the 
powers of history to interfere with this ego since there is nothing 
above or even beside it: by definition, it can go no other road 
than that prescribed to it by its own nature. Kant and his epoch 
make abstract man, the individuality that is freed from all ties 
and specificities and is therefore always identical, the ultimate 
substance of personality and, thereby, the ultimate value of per- 
sonality. However unholy man may be, Kant says, humanity in 
him is holy. And Schiller: ‘‘The idealist thinks so highly of man- 
kind that he runs the risk of despising single men.’* 


Even for Rousseau, who certainly was sensitive to individual 
differences, these differences, nevertheless, are superficial. He 
argues that the more completely man returns to his own heart 
and grasps his inner absoluteness instead of mere external rela- 
tions, the more forcefully flows in him, that is, in each individual 
equally, the fountain of goodness and happiness. When man thus 
really is himself, he possesses a sustained strength that is abundant 
for more than his own maintenance. He can make it flow over 
to others, as it were; it is sufficient to absorb others in himself and 
to identify himself with them. We are ethically the more valuable, 
charitable, and good, the more each of us is purely himself; the 
more, that is, one allows that innermost core to become sovereign 
in himself in which all men are identical in spite of all social 
ties and accidental guises. Inasmuch as he is more than sheer 
empirical individuality, the true individual has in this “more” 
the possibility to give of himself and thus to overcome his empiri- 
cal egoism. 

The Eighteenth Century 71 

We realize how the peculiar eighteenth-century conception of 
nature establishes a close relation to ethics; and in all of the 
eighteenth century, the double role of nature finds its strongest 
expression in Rousseau. I already called attention to the signi- 
ficance of nature for the problem of individuality: nature not 
only is what really alone exists — the substance of all historical 
oscillations and shifts — but also, at the same time, it is what 
ought to be, the ideal with whose growing realization all men 
must be concerned. To say that what truly exists is, at the same 
time, an aim that must yet be reached, sounds contradictory. Yet 
actually, these two propositions are the two sides of a consistent 
psychological position which is taken in regard to more than 
one value complex. We can simply not express it otherwise than 
in this logically contradictory dualism. And it is precisely in its 
specific stand on the problem of the ego that the dual significance 
of the “natural” becomes most readily plausible. We feel in our- 
selves an ultimate reality which forms the essence of our nature, 
but which is yet only very imperfectly represented by our empiri- 
cal reality. But it is by no means merely a fantasy-like ideal which 
hovers above this empirical reality; for, in some shape it already 
exists, traced in ideal lines, as it were, into our existence; and 
yet it contains the norm for this existence, and only requires to 
be fully worked out and elaborated in the material of our exis- 
tence. That the ego which we already are, nevertheless is some- 
thing yet to be achieved because we are it not yet purely and ab- 
solutely but only in the disguise and distortion of our historical- 
social destinies — this argument became an extremely powerful 
feeling in the eighteenth century. The ego’s setting-of-norms for 
the ego is ethically justified because the ideal ego is real in a 
higher sense of the word: it is the generally human ego. When 
it is attained, the true equality of all that is man is also attained. 
This thought was expressed most exhaustively by Schiller: “Every 
individual man carries a pure and ideal man in himself, as disposi- 
tion and destination. It is the great task of his life, in all his 
changes, to coincide with the unchangeable unity of this ideal 
man. This pure man makes himself manifest, more or less dis- 
tinctly, in every individual.” 

72 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 


The formula of the “categorical imperative,” in which Kant 
epitomized man’s moral task, is the most profound elaboration 
of this concept of individuality. It bases man’s whole moral value 
upon freedom. As long as we are mere parts of the mechanism 
of the world, including the social world, we have as little “value” 
as the passing cloud or the withering stone. Only when we cease 
being a mere product and crosspoint of external forces and be- 
come a being that develops out of his own ego, can we be respon- 
sible. Only then can we acquire the possibility of both guilt and 
moral value. Within the natural-social cosmos, “being-for-one- 
self” or “personality” do not exist. Only when we are rooted 
in absolute freedom (the metaphysical counterpart of laissez- 
faire) do we gain both personality and the dignity of the moral. 
And what this morality is, is expressed by the categorical impera- 
tive as follows: “Act in such a way that the principle governing 
your will could at the same time be valid as the principle of a 
general legislation.” With the categorical imperative, the ideal 
of equality has become the meaning of every Ought. Self-flatter- 
ing arrogance has been made impossible: the individual can no 
longer feel himself entitled to indulge in special actions and en- 
joyments because he fancies that he is “different from the others.” 
Moral trial “without regard to person,” equality before the 
moral law, is perfected in the requirement that it must be pos- 
sible to think consistently of one’s own action as of every- 
body’s necessary manner of acting. Equality supplies freedom, 
which is the mainspring of all ethics, with its content. The ab- 
solutely self-dependent and self-responsible personality is pre- 
cisely the personality whose action is ethically justified by the 
identical claim to this action on the part of all others. Not merely, 
only the man who is free is moral, but also, only the man who is 
moral is free, because only his action possesses the character of 
the general law that is real exclusively in the uninfluenced and 
self-based ego. Thus, the eighteenth-century conception of indi- 
viduality, with its emphasis on personal freedom that does not 
exclude, but includes, equality, because the “true person” is 

The Nineteenth Century 73 

the same in every accidental man, has found its abstract perfec- 
tion in Kant. 

§5. The Nineteenth Century 

In the nineteenth century, this conception splits up into two 
ideals. Crudely and without regard for many necessary qualifica- 
tions, these ideals may be identified as the tendencies toward 
equality without freedom, and toward freedom without equality. 


The former is characteristic of socialism. Although it does 
not, of course, exhaustively define socialism, it is yet more pro- 
foundly a part of it than is admitted by the majority of its ad- 
herents. In energetically rejecting mechanical equalization, the 
socialists are mistaken about the central role that the idea of 
equality will always play in the formation of socialist ideals. 
Socialization of the means of production may, as I have already 
stressed, bring out many individual differences which in the 
present social system are atrophied because of their disappear- 
ance into class levels, and because of imperfect education, over- 
work, indigence, and worry. Nevertheless, the elimination of 
undeserved advantages and disadvantages due to birth, fluctua- 
tion of the stock market, accumulation of capital, differential 
evaluation of identical quantities of work, etc., would certainly 
lead to a very considerable leveling of economic conditions as 
compared with the present state of affairs. And according to the 
close dependence which precisely in socialist theory exists be- 
tween the economic and the general cultural situation, the rela- 
tive economic equilibration is bound to be paralleled by a com- 
prehensive personal equilibration. Yet the crucial point is that 
the various measures of leveling (which differ with different so- 
cialist programs) only concern the oscillations in the theory of 
the ideal of equality — an ideal which is one of the great character 
traits of human nature. There will always be a type of person 
whose notions regarding social values are contained in the idea 
of the equality of all, however nebulous and unthinkable in the 
concrete this idea may be. And there will also be a type to whom 
individual differences and distances constitute an ultimate, ir- 

74 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

reducible, and self-justified value of the social form of existence. 
One of the leading socialists asserts that all socialist measures, 
including those which superficially strike one as coercive, actually 
aim at the development and security of the free personality. 
Thus, the institution of maximum hours of work is merely a 
prohibition to give up personal freedom for more than a particu- 
lar number of hours. It is thus basically the same as the prohibi- 
tion to sell oneself permanently into personal servitude. But this 
sort of argument shows our particular socialist to think in terms 
of eighteenth-century individualism with its schematic concep- 
tion of freedom. 

Perhaps no empirical man is guided exclusively by any one 
of these two tendencies, freedom and equality. Perhaps, too, the 
exclusive realization of either of them is entirely impossible. Yet 
this does not prevent them from socially manifesting themselves 
as fundamental types of character differences. Once one of them 
exists, the individual who is dominated by it, will not be swayed 
by rational argument. For in spite of any retrospective rationaliza- 
tions to the contrary, such a tendency does not originate in its 
appraisal as a means for the attainment of an ultimate end, such 
as general happiness or personal perfection or the rationalization 
of life. It rather itself is the ultimate ground on which all inten- 
tions, decisions, and deductions are built. It expresses the exis- 
tence of man, the substance of his essence. His relation to his 
fellowmen is something very important, grave, and basic to him. 
Hence his decision as to whether he is, or wants, or ought to be, 
like or unlike them (individually, as well as in principle) is 
bound to come from the very depth of his being. It seems to me 
that socialism recruits most of its adherents, at any rate its most 
fanatic adherents, from individuals who tend in the manner sug- 
gested toward this quite general ideal of equality. 

The relation between the relative equality of a socialized 
system, and freedom is very complex. It is characterized by the 
typical ambiguity which class differentiation commonly inflicts 
upon general influences or modifications that concern the whole 
of a given society. For, since the development and the life condi- 
tions of the various parts of a society are extremely different, any 
general modification must result in extremely different, even 
diametrically opposed consequences for these various parts. The 

The Nineteenth Century 75 

same measure of general equalization that would give a great 
deal of freedom to the laborer who is constantly exposed to the 
threat of hunger and the hardships of wage work, would entail 
at least an equal limitation of freedom for the entrepreneur, the 
rentier^ the artist, the scholar, and other leaders of the present 
order. A formally corresponding sociological ambiguity charac- 
terizes the woman question. The freedom to engage in economic 
production is sought after by the women of the higher classes 
in an effort to secure their solid independence and a satisfactory 
demonstration of their ability. Yet, for the woman factory worker, 
this same freedom constitutes a terrible obstacle to the fulfill- 
ment of her duties and to her happiness as wife and mother. As it 
hits two different classes, the elimination of domestic and family 
restrictions results in totally different values. To recapitulate, 
in the socialist movement, the synthesis of freedom and equality 
has been modified by the emphasis upon equality. And only 
because the class, whose interests are represented by socialism, 
would feel equality as freedom (at least during the initial period 
of socialist equalization), can socialism overlook the antagonism 
between the two ideals. 

One might suggest that the loss of freedom which socialism 
would impose on certain layers of the society, will be only transi- 
tional, will last only as long as the aftereffects of present condi- 
tions still allow for sensitivity to individual differences. In fact, 
in view of the difficulties of reconciling freedom and equality, 
touched upon above, socialism has been forced to resort to an ad- 
justment to equality which, as an overall satisfaction, is supposed 
to reduce the desires for freedom that go beyond it. Yet this resort 
to such a panacea of adjustment is a questionable device, if only 
because it can be used with equal readiness by any contrary posi- 
tion. For, one could assert no less plausibly that the drives toward 
freedom which are based on social differences could adjust to any 
degree of reduction in the absolute quantity of these differences. 
But the fact is that the nature of our sensitivity depends on 
differences in stimulus. Therefore, after a brief period of adjust- 
ment, the individual differences would base their utterly inevi- 
table passions of greed and envy, of domination and feeling of 
oppression, on the slight differences in social position that have 
remained because they cannot be removed in even the most 

76 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

socialized situation. By virtue of this psychological structure of 
man, the exercise of freedom at the expense of others would find 
a fertile field of expansion, even if the extreme degree of equality 
attainable were actually attained. 

One might, however, understand equality only in the sense 
of equal justice. One might hold, that is, that the social institu- 
tions should give each individual a certain quantity of freedom, 
not on the basis of some mechanical and constant criterion, but 
in exact proportion to his qualitative importance. Yet even this 
conception could not be acted upon in practice. The reason is 
a largely neglected fact which, nevertheless, is of the greatest 
significance for an understanding of the relation between indi- 
vidual and society. Any social order requires a hierarchy of super- 
ordinations and subordinations, even if only for technical rea- 
sons. Therefore, equality in the sense of justice can only be the 
exact correspondence of personal qualification with position in 
this hierarchy. Yet, this harmonious correspondence is in prin- 
ciple impossible for the very simple reason that there always are 
more persons qualified for superior positions than there are 
superior positions. Among the million subjects of a prince, there 
surely is a large number who would make equally good or better 
princes. A good many factory workers could as well be entre- 
preneurs or at least foremen. A large portion of the common 
soldiers have full officer qualifications, even if only latently. 
Here lies the observational truth of the proverb, “If God gives 
somebody an office, he also gives him the mind necessary for it.** ^ 
Many people presumably have the qualifications required for the 
filling of higher positions, but they demonstrate, develop, and 
make them manifest only once they occupy these positions. Let 
us only remember the often grotesque accidents by which men in 
all spheres attain their positions. Is it not an incomprehensible 
miracle that there should not be an incomparably greater amount 
of incompetence than there actually is? No — precisely because 
we must assume that competence is actually very widely diffused. 

This incommensurability between the quantity of superior 
competence and its possible use can perhaps be explained on the 
basis of the difference (discussed earlier) between the character 
of man as group member and as individual. The group as such 

7 *‘Wem Gott ein Amt gibt, dem gibt er auch den Verstand dazu.'* — Tr. 

The Nineteenth Century 77 

is on a low level and is in need of leadership because its mem- 
bers generally contribute to it only those aspects of their per- 
sonalities that are common to all. These aspects always are the 
coarser, more primitive, and more ‘‘subordinate** aspects. Hence, 
whenever men associate in groups, it serves the purpose of the 
group to organize in the form of subordination to a few. But this 
does not prevent any single member from individually possess- 
ing higher and finer qualities. But these are, precisely, individual 
qualities. They diverge in different directions, all of them irrele- 
vant to any common group possession. They do not therefore 
raise the low level of the qualities in which all securely meet. It 
follows that the group as a whole needs a leader — that there are 
bound to be many subordinates and only few superordinates. It 
further follows that each individual group member is more highly 
qualified or more often capable of occupying a leading position 
than he is able to make use of in his capacity as a group member. 
The axiom, “Many are called but few are chosen,** also applies 
to social structures. The antinomy is met by a priori limiting the 
number of persons who are considered “qualified** to occupy 
leading positions. Both the principle of estates and the contem- 
porary social order implement this limitation by building classes 
one on top of the other in the form of a pyramid which contains 
increasingly fewer members as it approaches its top. The equal 
right of all to occupy all positions obviously makes it impossible 
to satisfy any justified claim whatever. Therefore, an estate or 
class arrangement of the social order intrinsically exerts a limit- 
ing selection. This selection is far from being determined by 
considering the individuals but on the contrary, shapes them. 

It is questionable whether a socialist order could eventually do 
without such a priori super-subordination. Socialism postulates 
that any accidental chance be eliminated from the determination 
of positions to be occupied, and that individual qualification 
alone decide the attainment of positions. On the other hand, it 
also postulates that any talent develop “freely,** that is, that it 
find the position commensurate with it. From this and from what 
has been pointed out before, it follows that in socialism there 
would be more superordinates than subordinates, more persons 
who command than execute commands. If freedom in the social 
sense refers to the adequate expression of any measure of indi- 

78 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

vidual strength and importance in the configuration of leading 
and following within the group, then freedom is here excluded 
from the start. We have seen that the conflict between man’s 
individual wholeness and his nature as a group member, makes 
the harmonious proportion between personal qualification and 
social position impossible; and thus makes impossible the syn- 
thesis, on the basis of justice, between freedom and equality. 
And this conflict cannot be eliminted even by a socialist order, 
because it may be called a logical presupposition of society itself. 

[b] THE NEW individualism: the incomparability of the 


I must limit myself to presenting these fragments in the field 
of the much-discussed relation of socialism to individual free- 
dom. I shall now sketch the peculiar form of individualism that 
dissolved the eighteenth-century synthesis which based equality 
upon freedom, and freedom upon equality. In place of the 
equality which (it will be recalled) expressed the deepest nature 
of man and which, at the same time, had yet to be realized, it puts 
inequality. Just as equality in the eighteenth century, so now 
inequality in the nineteenth, only needs freedom to emerge from 
its mere latency and potentiality and to dominate all of human 
life. Freedom remains the general denominator even if its cor- 
relate is the opposite of what it had been. It seems that, as soon 
as the ego had become sufficiently strengthened by the feeling of 
equality and generality, it fell back into the s^'^rch for inequality. 
Yet this new inequality was posited from within. First, there had 
been the thorough liberation ot the individual from the rusty 
chains of guild, birth ight, and church. Now, the individual that 
had thus become independent also wished to distinguish himself 
from other individuals. The inx^^rtant point no longer was the 
fact that he was a free individual as such, but that he was this 
specific, iiicplace:iblc, given individual. 

In this development, the modem tendency toward differen- 
tiation attains an intensification that leads it away from the form 
it had just reached in the preceding century. But in stressing this 
contrast, one must not overlook the fact that the fundamental 
direction, which actually pervades all of the modern period, 
remains identical. This direction may be expressed by stating 

rhe Nineteenth Century 79 

that the indiviuui.’ seeks his self as if he did not yet have it, and 
yet, at the same time, is certain that his only fixed point is this 
self. In the light of the unbelievable expansion of theoretical 
and practical horizons, it is ’understandable that the individual 
should ever more urgently ^uch a fixed point, but that he 
should be no longer capable of it in anything external 

to himself. The double need tor unquestionable clarity and for 
enigmatic unfathomableness — a. need whose two components 
have been diverging ever further in the course of the develop- 
ment of modem man — is satisfied, as if it were one homogeneous 
need, in the idea jf the ego and in the feeling of personality. Yet 
even socialism reccl/^s, pi>ychological help from both a concep- 
tually demonstrated rationalism and from very obscure, possibly 
atavistic-communistic instincts. Thus, in the end, all relations 
to others are merely stations on the road on which the ego arrives 
at itself. His relations may be such stations in two respects. Either 
the ego may ultimately come to feel that it is like the others be- 
cause, living as it does on nothing but its own forces, it may still 
need this encouraging and supporting consciousness. Or, on the 
contrary, it may be strong enough to bear the loneliness of its 
own quality, and may hold that the only reason for a multitude 
of individuals to exist at all is the possibility of each component 
individual to measure his own incomparability and the indivi- 
duality of his own world by those of the others. 

Historically, then, the tendency toward individualization, as 
I have already suggested, leads from one ideal to a very different 
ideal. The first is the ideal of fundamentally equal, even if wholly 
free and self-responsible personalities. The other is that of the 
individuality which, precisely in its innermost nature, is incom- 
parable and which is called upon to play an irreplaceable role. 
Intimations of the later ideal are already found in the eighteenth 
century, in Lessing, Herder, and Lavater. Lavater’s Christ cult 
has been ascribed to his desire to individualize even God, and the 
intensification of this cult, to his quest for ever new images of 
Christ. Yet it is in a work of art that this form of individualism 
finds its first full elaboration — in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. 
Wilhelm Meistefs Apprenticeship, for the first time, shows a 
world which is based exclusively on the individual peculiarities 
of its protagonists and which is organized and developed only on 

80 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

this basis, quite irres’iective of the fact that these protagonists 
are designed as types. For, however often they may be repeated 
in reality, it stiil is the essential significance of each of them that, 
in his ultimate ground, he >? r1ifFprf>nt from the other with whom 
fate has thrown him together. The accent of life and develop- 
ment does not lie on similarity but on absolute peculiarity. In 
Wilhelm Meistefs T ravels, the interest shifts from the individual 
to mankind — not in the sense of eighteenth-century abstract 
man-in-general, but of rollpctive. of the roncr'’*-" totality of 
the living species. It is most remarkable to note how this indi- 
vidualism with its emphasis on individual incomparability and 
uniqueness, comes to the fore even on the basis of this interest 
in mankind. The individualistic requirement of specificity does 
not make for the valuation of total personality within society, 
but for the personality’s obiective achievement for the benefit 
of society. “Your general culture and all its institutions,” Goethe 
says in the T ravels, “are fooleries. Any man’s task is to do some- 
thing extraordinarily well, as no other man in his immediate 
environment can.” This is the absolute opposite of the ideal of 
free and equal personalities that Fichte had compressed into this 
one sentence: “A rational being must simply be an individual — 
but precisely, not this or that particular individual.” The older 
ideal had resulted in the imperative that the individual differen- 
tially characterized ego develop itself, through the moral process, 
into the pure, absolute ego, which was the philosophical crystal- 
ization of eighteenth-centui / “general man.” In pointed an- 
tithesis to this position, Frederick Schlegel formulated the new 
individualism thus: “It is precisely individuality that is the orig- 
inal and eternal aspect of man; personality is less important. 
To see one’s noblest calling in the cultivation and development 
of this individuality would be divine egoism.” 

The new individualism found its philosophical expression 
in Schleiermacher. For Schleiermacher, the moral task consists 
in each individual’s specific representation of mankind. Each 
individual is a “compendium” of mankind; what is more, he is 
a synthesis of the forces that constitute the universe. Yet out of 
this material that is common to all, each individual creates an 
entirely unique form. And here, too, as in the earlier conception 
of individualism, reality also is the blueprint of what ought to be. 

The Nineteenth Century 81 

Not only as something already existing is man incomparable, 
placed into a framework which can be filled out only by him. 
There also is another aspect: the realization of this incompara- 
bility, the filling-out of this framework, is man’s moral task. Each 
individual is called or destined to realize his own, incomparable 
image. The great world-historical idea that not only the equality 
of men but also their differentiation represents a challenge, 
becomes the core of a new world view in Schleiermacher. The 
idea that the absolute only lives in the form of the individual, 
and that individuality is not a restriction of the infinite but its 
expression and mirror, makes the principle of the social division 
of labor part of the metaphysical ground of reality itself. To be 
sure, a differentiation that thus penetrates the last depths of the 
individual nature, easily exhibits a mystical-fatalistic character. 
(“This is the way thou hast to be; thou canst not escape thyself. 
Sibyls and prophets have always said this,'') For this reason, it 
remained foreign to the bright rationalism of the Enlightenment 
and, on the other hand, recommended itself to Romanticism, 
with which Schleiermacher was very closely connected. 

The new individualism might be called qualitative, in con- 
trast with the quantitative individualism of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. Or it might be labeled the individualism of uniqueness 
[Einzigkeit] as against that of singleness [Einzelheit], At any rate. 
Romanticism perhaps was the broadest channel through which 
it reached the consciousness of the nineteenth century. Goethe 
had created its artistic, and Schleiermacher its metaphysical basis: 
Romanticism supplied its sentimental, experiential foundation. 
After Herder (in whom therefore one of the mainsprings of 
qualitative individualism must be sought), the Romanticists 
were the first to absorb and to emphasize the particularity and 
uniqueness of historical realities. They deeply felt the important 
claim and the fascinating beauty of the Middle Ages, which had 
been neglected, and of the Orient, which had been despised by 
the activistic culture of a liberal Europe. In this sense, Novalis 
wanted his “one spirit” to transform itself into infinitely many 
alien spirits; the “one spirit inheres, as it were, in all objects 
it contemplates, and it feels the infinite, simultaneous sensations 
of a harmonious plurality.” Above all, the Romanticists experi- 
enced the inner rhythm of the incomparability, of the specific 

82 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

claim, of the sharp qualitative differentiation of the single ele- 
ment, which the new individualism also sees in the social element, 
among the components of society. Here, too, Lavater is an inter- 
esting predecessor. Occasionally, his physiognomy so stubbornly 
pursues the special characteristics of man's visible and inner 
traits that he cannot find his way back to man's total individuality, 
but remains arrested in his interest in the completely individual 
and single. The Romantic mind, too, feels its way through an 
endless series of contrasts. At the instant it is being lived and 
experienced, each of them appears as something absolute, com- 
pleted, self-contained, but at the next moment it is left behind. 
The Romanticist enjoys the very essence of each of these con- 
trasts only in its difference from every other. “He who is glued 
to only one point,'' Frederick Schlegel says, “is nothing but a 
rational oyster." In the protean succession of its contrasts of 
mood and task and conviction and sentiment, the life of the 
Romanticist reflects the social scene in which each individual 
finds the sense of his existence — individual no less than social — 
only in contrast with others, in the personal uniqueness of his 
nature and his activities. 

In its purely societal version, this conception of the task of 
the individual evidently points toward the constitution of a more 
comprehensive whole that is composed of the differentiated 
elements. The more specific the achievements (but also the needs) 
of the individuals, the more urgent becomes their reciprocal 
supplementation. In the same measure, the total organism which 
has grown out of the individuals engaged in the division of labor 
and which includes and mediates their interrelated effects and 
countereffects, shifts, so to speak, into a location high above them. 
The specificity of the individual thus requires a powerful politi- 
cal constitution which allocates his place to him, but in this 
fashion also becomes his master. It is for this reason that this 
individualism, which restricts freedom to a purely inward sense 
of the term, easily acquires an anti-liberal tendency. It thus 
is the complete antithesis of eighteenth-century individualism 
which, in full consistency with its notion of atomized and basic- 
ally undifferentiated individuals, could not even conceive the 
idea of a collective as an organism that unifies heterogeneous 
elements. The eighteenth-century collective holds its elements 

The Nineteenth Century 83 

together exclusively by means of the law that is above all of them. 
The function of this law is to restrict the freedom of the indi- 
vidual to the point where this freedom can coexist with that of 
every other individual. The godfathers of this law were, on the 
one hand, the laws of a mechanically construed nature and, on 
the other, law in the Roman-legal sense. By virtue of these two 
origins, the social scene in its concreteness entirely escapes eight- 
eenth-century individualism. For, the social scene cannot be put 
together through the mere addition of isolated and equal indi- 
viduals. It only arises from individual interactions within a divi- 
sion of labor. And it rises above these interactions as a unit 
which cannot be found in the individual, not even as some sort 
of proportionate quantity. 

In terms of intellectual history, the doctrine of freedom and 
equality is the foundation of free competition; while the doc- 
trine of differentiated personality is the basis of the division 
of labor. Eighteenth-century liberalism put the individual on 
his own feet: in the nineteenth, he was allowed to go as far as 
they would carry him. According to the new theory, the natural 
order of things saw to it that the unlimited competition of all 
resulted in the harmony of all interests, that the unrestricted 
striving after individual advantages resulted in the optimum 
welfare of the whole. This is the metaphysics with which the 
nature-optimism of the eighteenth century socially justified free 
competition. The metaphysical foundation of the division of 
labor was discovered with the individualism of difference, with 
the deepening of individuality to the point of the individual's 
incomparability, to which he is “called" both in his nature and 
in his achievement. The two great principles which operate, in- 
separably, in nineteenth-century economic theory and practice — 
competition and division of labor — thus appear to be the eco- 
nomic projections of the philosophical aspects of social indi- 
vidualism. Or inversely, these philosophical aspects appear to be 
the sublimations of the concrete economic forms of production 
of the period. Or, finally and more correctly, and thus suggesting 
the very possibility of this mutual interdependence: they both 
derive from one of the profound transformations of history which 
we cannot know in their essential nature and motivation but 

84 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Views of Life 

only in the manifestations they engender, as it were, when fusing 
with particular, contentually determined spheres of life. 

To be sure, unlimited competition and individual specializa- 
tion through divison of labor have affected individual culture 
in a way that shows them not to be its most suitable promoters. 
Perhaps, however, beyond the economic form of cooperation 
between the two great sociological themes, individual and society 
(the only sociological themes that have thus far been realized), 
there yet exists a higher form that might be the latent ideal of 
our culture. I should prefer to believe, however, that the ideas 
of free personality as such and of unique personality as such, are 
not the last words of individualism. I should like to think that 
the efforts of mankind will produce ever more numerous and 
varied forms for the human personality to affirm itself and to 
demonstrate the value of its existence. In fortunate periods, 
these varied forms may order themselves into harmonious wholes. 
In doing so, their contradictions and conflicts will cease to be 
mere obstacles to mankind’s efforts: they will also stimulate new 
demonstrations of the strength of these efforts and lead them 
to new creations. 

Fart Two 

Quantitative Aspects 
of the Group 

Chapter 1 

On the Significance 
of Numbers for Social Life 


by examining forms of social life, combinations and interactions 
among individuals. But they do so in one respect only: the bear- 
ing which the mere number of sociated individuals has upon 
these forms of social life. It will immediately be conceded on 
the basis of everyday experiences, that a group upon reaching 
a certain size must develop forms and organs which serve its 
maintenance and promotion, but which a smaller group does 
not need. On the other hand, it will also be admitted that smaller 
groups have qualities, including types of interaction among their 
members, which inevitably disappear when the groups grow 
larger. This quantitative determination of the group, as it may 
be called, has a twofold function. Negatively speaking, certain 
developments, which are necessary or at least possible as far as 
the contents or conditions of life are concerned, can be realized 
only below or above a particular number of elements. Positively, 
certain other developments are imposed upon the group by cer- 
tain purely quantitative modifications. Yet not even these de- 
velopments emerge automatically, for they also depend on other 
than numerical characteristics. The decisive point, however, is 
that they are not the result of these characteristics alone, for they 
emerge only under certain numerical conditions. 

§ 1 . Small Groups 


It can be shown, for instance, that, up to this day at least, 
socialistic or nearly socialistic societies have been possible only in 


88 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

very small groups and have always failed in larger ones. The prin- 
ciple of socialism — ^justice in the distribution of production and 
reward — can easily be realized in a small group and, what is surely 
quite as important, can be safeguarded there by its members. 
The contribution of each to the whole and the group's reward 
to him are visible at close range; comparison and compensation 
are easy. In the large group they are difficult, especially because 
of the inevitable differentation of its members, of their functions, 
and claims. A very large number of people can constitute a unit 
only if there is a complex division of labor. The reason is not 
only the obvious one of economic technique; there also is the 
fact that only the division of labor produces the sort of interpene- 
tration and interdependence which (through innumerable inter- 
mediaries) connects each with everybody, and without which a 
far-flung group would break apart on every occasion. Therefore, 
the closer the group unity that is desired, the more articulate 
must be the specialization of its members, and the more uncon- 
ditionally must this specialization bind the individual to the 
whole and the whole to him. The socialism of a large group thus 
would require the sharpest differentiation among the component 
personalities, and this differentiation would necessarily have to 
extend beyond their occupations, and include their feelings and 
wishes as well; But this would make comparisons among indi- 
vidual achievements and among individual rewards, and adjust- 
ments between them, extremely difficult. And yet it is on them 
that rests the possibility of approximate socialism in small, and 
therefore undifferentiated, groups. 

In an advanced civilization, these groups are limited to 
numerical insignificance even logically, as it were, by their de- 
pendence on goods which they cannot supply under their own 
conditions of production. To my knowledge, there is only a single 
approximately socialistic organization ^ in existence in Europe 

1 The reliability of the historical materials used in these essays is conditioned, 
as far as their content is concerned, by two circumstances. Because of the particular 
function that these materials have here, they had to be culled from so many and 
heterogenous areas of historico social life that the limited labor power of a single 
person could in general only draw on secondary sources for their collection; they 
could rarely be verified by direct firsthand investigation. On the other hand, the 
fact that these materials were collected over a long period of years will make it 
understandable that not every single item could be checked against the latest re- 
search before the publication of the book. If the communication of social facts 

Small Groups 89 

today. It is the Familistere de Guise y a large factory of cast-iron 
products. It was founded in 1880 by a disciple of Fourier on 
the principle of complete welfare for each worker and his family, 
of the guarantee of a minimum existence, of free care and educa- 
tion for the children, and of the collective attainment of sub- 
sistence. During the i8go’s, the enterprise employed approxi- 
mately two thousand people and appeared to be viable. But 
evidently it did or does so only because it is surrounded by a 
society that lives under very different life conditions, out of 
which the Familistere can fill the inevitable gaps of its own pro- 
duction. For, human needs cannot be rationalized in the way 
production can be. They seem to have a contingency or incalcu- 
lability about them, which is the reason why their satisfaction 
can be achieved only at the cost of producing innumerable irra- 
tional and unusable goods. A group, therefore, which does not 
carry on such a production and relies instead on a complete sys- 
tematization and perfect rationality of its activities, will always 
necessarily be a small group. For it can obtain only from a sur- 
rounding larger group that which at an advanced stage of civiliza- 
tion it needs for a satisfactory living standard. 



There also are group formations of a religious sort, whose 
sociological structure makes it impossible for them to support 
a large membership. Such are, for instance, the sects of the Wal- 
denses, Mennonites, and Hermhuter. Where dogma forbids 
oath, military service, and occupancy of offices; where very per- 

were one of the purposes of this volume, even though only secondary, the latitude 
given to undemonstrated statements and errors that has just been implied would 
be inadmissible. But in the present attempt at eliciting from social life the pos- 
sibility of a new scientific abstraction, the essential aim can only be the achievement 
of this abstraction by means of any examples whatever, and thus the proof that 
it makes sense. If, for the sake of methodological clarification I should express the 
matter in a somewhat exaggerated fashion, I would say that the only importance 
of the examples is that they are possible, and less that they are real. For, their 
truth is not (or only in a few cases) designed to demonstrate the truth of a general 
proposition. Rather, even where some expression might not indicate it, they are 
only the object of an analysis; and the object itself is irrelevant. It is the correct 
and fruitful manner of performing this analysis, not the truth about the reality 
of its object, which is either achieved here or not. The investigation could be 
carried out even on the basis of fictitious examples, whose importance for the 
interpretation of reality could be left to the reader’s accidental knowledge of fact. 

90 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

sonal affairs, such as occupation, daily schedule, and even mar- 
riage, are regulated by the community; where a specific dress 
separates the faithful from the others and symbolizes their be- 
longing together; where the subjective experience of immediate 
rapport with Christ constitutes the real cohesion of the com- 
munity — in such situations, extension to large groups would 
evidently break the tie of solidarity which consists to a large 
degree precisely in the position of being singled out of larger 
groups and being in contrast with them. At least in this sociolog- 
ical respect, the claim of these sects that they represent original 
Christianity is not without justification. For, original Chris- 
tianity, a yet undifferentiated unit of dogma and way of life, was 
possible only in such small communities within surrounding 
larger ones; and the larger groups not only served to supplement 
their external needs but also to form a contrast by which the 
sects became aware of their own specific nature. The diffusion 
of Christianity to society at large was therefore bound to change 
completely its sociological character, no less than its spiritual 


It is, furthermore, the very idea of aristocracies that they can 
be only relatively small. This obvious fact, however, does not 
merely follow from the dominance of aristocracy over the masses. 
There also seems to be an absolute (though greatly varying) 
limitation in number. In other words, there is not only a certain 
proportion which would allow the ruling aristocracy to grow 
indefinitely in some prorated fashion as the mass of the ruled 
grows. There also is an absolute limit beyond which the aristo- 
cratic form of the group can no longer be maintained. The point 
at which it breaks down is determined in part by external, in 
part by psychological circumstances. If it is to be effective as a 
whole, the aristocratic group must be “surveyable’* by every 
single member of it. Each element must still be personally ac- 
quainted with every other. Relations by blood and marriage 
must be ramified and traceable throughout the whole group. 
Thus the tendency of extreme numerical limitation, characteris- 
tic of historical aristocracies from Sparta to Venice, is not only 

Small Groups 91 

due to the egoistic disinclination to share a ruling position but 
also to the instinct that the vital conditions o£ an aristocracy 
can be maintained only if the number of its members is small, 
relatively and absolutely. The unconditional right of primo- 
geniture, which is of an aristocratic nature, is the means for 
preventing expansion. Both the old Theban law against increase 
in the number of landed estates and the Corinthian law requir- 
ing constancy in the number of families, were based on it. It is 
very characteristic that at one point, when Plato speaks of the 
Ruling Few, he also directly designates them as the Not-Many. 

Where an aristocracy yields to democratic and centrifugal 
tendencies which usually accompany the transition to very large 
communities, it becomes entangled in deadly conflicts with its 
own life principle. A case in point is the nobility of Poland be- 
fore the division. Under more favorable conditions, the conflict 
is resolved by transformation into a pervasive democratic form. 
The ancient free Germanic peasant community with the wholly 
personal equality of its members, for instance, was thoroughly 
aristocratic, but in its continuation in urban communities be- 
came the fountainhead of democracy. If this solution is shunned, 
there is nothing left but to draw at a certain point a hard line 
against expansion, and to stem the quantitatively closed group 
against whatever outside elements may want to enter it, no matter 
how much they may be entitled to do so. The aristocratic nature 
often becomes conscious of itself only in this situation, in this in- 
creased solidarity in the face of the tendency to expand. Thus, the 
old constitution of the gens seems to have been transformed 
several times into a real aristocracy only because a new popula- 
tion pressed upon it — a population alien and too numerous to be 
absorbed even gradually. Confronted with this increase of the 
total group, the associations of gentes, which in their whole 
nature were quantitatively limited, could maintain themselves 
only as aristocracies. In a very similar way, the protective guild 
Richerzeche of Cologne originally consisted of all free burghers. 
In the measure, however, in which the population of the city 
increased, it became a closed aristocratic association. 

Yet the tendency of political aristocracies not to become 
‘‘many*' under any circumstances, usually leads to their decrease 
and extinction, rather than to their continuation. The reason 

92 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

is not only physiological. In general, small and very exclusive 
groups also distinguish themselves from large ones by the fact 
that the very fate that strengthens and renews the latter may 
destroy the former. A lost war can ruin a small city-state, but 
regenerate a large state. The explanation is not so simple as it 
might seem: there is also the difference in the ratio of potential 
to actual energies. Small, centripetally organized groups usually 
call on and use all their energies, while in large groups, forces 
remain much oftener potential, absolutely as well as relatively. 
The need of the collectivity here does not claim continuously 
the total personality of every member but can afford not to ex- 
ploit some of the energies, which in an emergency may be drawn 
upon and actualized. Therefore, where circumstances exclude 
dangers that require an unused quantity of social energy, certain 
measures of numerical limitation, even beyond endogamy, may 
be highly appropriate. The polyandry of the Tibetan mountains 
is socially beneficial, as even the missionaries recognize. For, 
the soil is so infertile that a rapid population increase would 
result in the direst need; and polyandry is an excellent pre- 
ventive against this. We hear that the members of Bushman 
families occasionally have to separate because of the sterility of 
the soil; in view of this, the rule which limits family size to a 
level compatible with subsistence opportunities, appears entirely 
in line with the very interest of family unity and all its social 
significance, while the external life conditions of the group, and 
their consequences for the internal group structure, obviate the 
dangers that otherwise inhere in numerical limitation. 

Where the small group, especially the political group, to a 
great extent preempts the personalities of its members, the very 
character of its unity forces the members to take decisive stands 
in regard to persons, objective tasks, and other groups. On the 
other hand, the large group with its many different elements 
requires such a stand much less, or cannot even afford it. The 
histories of the Greek and Italian cities and of the Swiss cantons 
show that small contiguous communities either federate or live 
in a state of mutual, more or less latent hostility. Warfare and 
its rules are much more bitter, and particularly much more 
radical, between them than they are between great states: the 
lack of group organs, reserves, and relatively undefined and 

Large Groups: the Mass 93 

transitional elements, makes modification and adaptation diffi- 
cult. Thus their fundamental sociological structure, in conjunc- 
tion with their external conditions, makes them face the question 
of life or death much more often than larger societies. 

§ 2. Large Groups: the Mass 

Aside from these traits of small groups I will mention, with 
the same inevitably arbitrary selection from among innumerable 
features, the following which characterize the sociological struc- 
ture of large groups. I begin by suggesting that large groups, in 
comparison with smaller ones, seem to show less radicalism and 
decisiveness. Yet this statement must be qualified. For, precisely 
where large masses are activated by political, social, or religious 
movements, they are ruthlessly radical, and extreme parties over- 
whelm moderate ones. The reason is that large masses can always 
be animated and guided only by simple ideas: what is common 
to many must be accessible even to the lowest and most primitive 
among them. Even nobler and more differentiated personalities 
in relatively large numbers never meet on complex and highly 
developed ideas and impulses but only on those that are relatively 
simple and generally human. Yet the realities in which the ideas 
of the mass are designed to function are always very complex 
and made up of a large number of divergent elements. Simple 
ideas, therefore, must always have the effect of being very one- 
sided, ruthless, and radical. 

This is even more true where the mass is in physical proximity. 
Here innumerable suggestions swing back and forth, resulting 
in an extraordinary nervous excitation which often overwhelms 
the individuals, makes every impulse swell like an avalanche, 
and subjects the mass to whichever among its members happens 
to be the most passionate. The rule according to which the 
voting of the Roman people took place in fixed groups {tributim 
et centuriatim descriptis ordinibus, classibus, aetatibus [by urban 
and recruiting districts, by estates, military classes, age groups], 
etc.), has been interpreted as a means essential for keeping de- 
mocracy under control — the Greek democracies voted in masses, 
under the immediate impact of the orator. The fusion of masses 
under one feeling, in which all specificity and reserve of the 

94 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

personality are suspended, is fundamentally radical and hostile 
to mediation and consideration. It would lead to nothing but 
impasses and destructions if it did not usually end before in inner 
exhaustions and repercussions that are the consequences of the 
one-sided exaggeration. Furthermore, the masses, as the term is 
used here, have little to lose but, on the contrary, believe that 
they have everything to gain; most inhibitions of radicalism, 
therefore, are usually suspended. Finally, groups, more fre- 
quently than individuals, forget that their power has limits at 
all. More precisely, they ignore these limits; and they do so the 
more easily, the less known to one another are their members — 
and mutual lack of knowledge is typical of a larger group that 
has come together by accident. 

§ 3 . Group Size, Radicalism, and Cohesiveness 

This sort of radicalism is distinguished by its emotionality 
and is indeed characteristic of large groups. But it is an excep- 
tion, for in general, small parties are more radical than large 
ones, whereby, of course, the ideas that form the basis of the 
party itself put the limits on its radicalism. Radicalism here is 
sociological in its very nature. It is necessitated by the unreserved 
devotion of the individual to the rationale of the group, by the 
sharp delimitation of the group against other nearby groups 
(a sharpness of demarcation required by the need for the self- 
preservation of the group), and by the impossibility of taking 
care of widely varying tendencies and ideas within a narrow 
social framework. Of all this, the radicalism of content is largely 

It has been noted, for instance, that the conservative- 
reactionary elements in present-day Germany are forced by their 
very numerical strength to moderate their extreme aspirations. 
These groups draw upon so many and heterogeneous social strata 
that they cannot pursue any one of their tendencies to the end 
without giving offense to some portion of their constituency. 
In the same way, the Social-Democratic party has been forced by 
the fact of its large membership to dilute its qualitative rad- 
icalism, to give some room to deviations from its dogma, and to 
allow certain compromises with its intransigence — if not ex- 

Group Size, Radicalism, and Cohesiveness 95 

pressly, at least here and there in its actions. It is the uncon- 
ditional solidarity of elements on which the sociological possi- 
bility of radicalism is based. This solidarity decreases in the 
measure in which numerical increase involves the admission of 
heterogeneous individual elements. For this reason, professional 
coalitions of workers, whose purpose is the improvement of labor 
conditions, know very well that they decrease in inner cohesion 
as they increase in volume. In this case, on the other hand, the 
numerical extension has the great significance of freeing the 
coalition, through each additional member who joins it, of a 
competitor who might otherwise have undersold it and thus have 
threatened its existence. 

For, evidently, there emerge very specific conditions for the 
life of a group which develops within a larger one under the idea 
that it includes all elements which fall under its assumptions — 
of a group which thus realizes its very function. In these cases 
the axiom applies, “Who is not for me is against me.” And the 
person who ideally, as it were, belongs to the group but remains 
outside it, by his mere indifference, his non-affiliation, positively 
harms the group. This non-membership may take the form of 
competition, as in the case of workers’ coalitions; or it may show 
the outsider j;he limits of the power which the group yields; or 
it may damage the group because it cannot even be constituted 
unless all potential candidates join as members, as is the case in 
certain industrial cartels. Where, therefore, a group is confronted 
with the question of completeness (which by no means applies 
to all groups), with the question, that is, whether all elements to 
which the group’s principles apply actually are members of it, 
there the consequences of this completeness must be carefully 
distinguished from those of its size. To be sure, the complete 
group is also larger. But what is important is not size as such but 
the problem (which nevertheless depends upon size) whether this 
size fills a prescribed framework. This problem can become so 
important that (as in the case of workers’ coalitions) the disad- 
vantages for cohesion and unity, which follow from mere nu- 
merical increase, are directly antagonistic to the advantages of 
nearing completeness. 

96 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 
§ 4 . Paradoxes in Group Structure 

More generally, the characteristics of the large group can, 
to a considerable extent, be explained as surrogates for the per- 
sonal and immediate cohesion typical of the small group. The 
large group creates organs which channel and mediate the inter- 
actions of its members and thus operate as the vehicles of a 
societal unity which no longer results from the direct relations 
among its elements. Offices and representations, laws and sym- 
bols of group life, organizations and general social concepts are 
organs of this sort. Their formations and functions are dealt with 
in many passages of the present volume. At this point, therefore, 
only their connection with the quantitative aspect of the group 
needs discussion. Typically, all of them develop fully and purely 
only in large groups. They are the abstract form of group cohe- 
sion whose concrete form can no longer exist after the group 
has reached a certain size. Their utility, which ramifies into a 
thousand social characteristics, ultimately depends on numerical 
premises. They are the embodiment of the group forces and thus 
have a super-personal and objective character with which they 
confront the individual. But this character springs from the very 
multitude of the individual members and their effects, whatever 
they may be. For, it is this large number which paralyzes the 
individual element and which causes the general element to 
emerge at such a distance from it that it seems as if it could exist 
by itself, without any individuals, to whom in fact it often enough 
is antagonistic. 

Here we find a parallel in the phenomenon of the concept, 
A concept isolates that which is common to singular and hetero- 
geneous items. It stands the more highly above each of them, the 
more of them it comprises. It is, therefore, the most general 
concepts, that is, those which comprehend the largest number 
of items — such as the abstractions of metaphysics — that gain, as 
it were, a separate existence, the norms and developments of 
which are often alien or even hostile to those of more tangible, 
single items. In a similar manner, the large group gains its unity, 
which finds expression in the group organs and in political no- 
tions and in ideals, only at the price of a great distance between 
all of these structures and the individual. In the social life of a 

Numerical Aspects of Prominent Group Members 97 

small group, by contrast, the individuars views and needs are 
directly effective, are objects of immediate consideration. This 
situation accounts for the frequent difficulties characteristic of 
organizations which are composed of a number of smaller units. 
Matters at issue here can be appraised correctly and treated with 
interest and care only at close range; but, on the other hand, a 
just and regular arrangement of all details can be secured only 
from the distance which is reserved for the central organ alone. 
Such a discrepancy is revealed again and again by charitable 
organizations, labor unions, school administrations, etc. In all 
these instances, it is hard to reconcile personal relations, which 
are the very life principle of small groups, with the distance and 
coolness of objective and abstract norms without which the large 
group cannot exist.^ 

§ 5, Numerical Aspects of Prominent Group Members 

The structural differences among groups, that are produced 
by mere numerical differences, become even more evident in the 
roles played by certain prominent and effective members. It is 
obvious that a given number of such members has a different 
significance in a large group than in a small one. As the group 
changes quantitatively, the effectiveness of these members also 
changes. But it must be noted that this effectiveness is modified 
even if the number of outstanding members rises or falls in exact 
proportion to that of the whole group. The role of one million- 

2 Here emerges a typical difficulty of the human condition. Our theoretical and 
practical attitudes toward all kinds of phenomena constantly causes us to stay, 
simultaneously, within and without them. The person, for instance, who argues 
against smoking must himself both smoke and not smoke: if he does not, he does not 
know the attraction he condemns; but if he does, he is not considered entitled to 
make a judgment which he belies. Another example: in order to have an opinion 
about women “in general,” one must have known intimate relations with them and, 
at the same time, be free and distant from such relations, because they would 
change one’s judgment. Only where we are close, are on the inside, are equals, do 
we know and understand; only where distance precludes immediate contacts in 
every sense of the word do we have the objectivity and detachment which are as 
necessary as knowledge and understanding. This dualism of nearness and distance 
is necessary for our behavior to be consistently correct. It inheres, so to speak, in the 
fundamental forms and problems of our life. Just so, the fact that the same affair 
can be correctly treated only within a small group and only within a large one, is a 
formal, sociological contradiction; it is merely a special case of this generally 
human contradiction. 

98 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

aire who lives in a city of ten thousand middle-class people, and 
the general physiognomy which that city receives from his pres- 
ence, are totally different from the significance which fifty mil- 
lionaires or, rather, each of them, have for a city of 500,000 
population — in spite of the fact that the numerical relation be- 
tween the millionaire and his fellow citizens, which alone (it 
would seem) should determine that significance, has remained 
unchanged. If, in a parliamentary party of twenty, there are four 
who criticize the political program or want to secede, their sig- 
nificance in terms of party tendencies and procedures is different 
from what it would be if the party were fifty strong and had ten 
rebels within it: although the numerical ratio has not changed, 
the importance of the ten in the larger party will in general be 
greater. To give a final example: it has been noted that a military 
tyranny (other things being equal) is the more tenable, the larger 
the territory over which it extends. If its army includes one per 
cent of the population, it is easier for an army of 100,000 to keep 
a population of ten million under control than it is for a hundred 
soldiers to hold a city of 100,000 in check, or for one soldier, a 
village of a hundred. The strange thing is that the absolute 
numbers of the total group and of its prominent elements so 
remarkably determine the relations within the group — in spite 
of the fact that their numerical ratio remains the same. These 
examples can easily be multiplied. They show that the relation 
of sociological elements depends not only on their relative but 
also on their absolute quantities. Suppose we have a party within 
a larger society. The relation between the two changes not only 
when the society remains stationary while the party increases 
or decreases in membership, but also when they both change in 
the same sense and to the same extent. This fact reveals the 
sociological significance of the magnitude or smallness of the 
total group even for the numerical relations of its elements. And 
yet, at a first glance, only these numerical relations seem to have 
to do with the significance of numbers for the relations within 
the group. 

Custom, Law, Morality 99 

§ 6 . Custom, Law, Morality 

The formal difference in the individual’s group behavior, 
as it is determined by the quantity of his group, is not only of 
factual but also of normative and moral significance. This is 
perhaps most clearly evident in the difference between custom 
and law. Among Aryan peoples, the earliest ties of the individual 
to a super-individual order of life seem to be rooted in a very 
general instinct or concept of the normative, the decent, the 
Ought in general. The Hindu dharma, the Greek themis, the 
Latin fas, all express this undifferentiated “normative as such.” 
The more special regulations, religious, moral, conventional, 
legal, are still enfolded in it, are not yet ramified and separated 
out: the general notion of the normative is their original unity, 
not a unity abstracted from them in retrospect. In contrast with 
the opinion according to which morality, custom, and law have 
developed as supplementations out of this germinal state, it 
seems to me that this germinal state is perpetuated in what we 
call custom. And custom, I think, represents a stage of non- 
differentiation that in different directions sends forth two forms, 
law and morality. 

Morality here concerns us only insofar as it results from the 
behavior of the individual toward other individuals or groups, 
that is, insofar as it has essentially the same contents as custom 
and law. Morality develops in the individual through a second 
subject that confronts him in himself. By means of the same split 
through which the ego says to itself “I am” — confronting itself, 
as a knowing subject, with itself as a known object — it also says 
to itself “I ought to.” The relation of two subjects that appears 
as an imperative is repeated within the individual himself by 
virtue of the fundamental capacity of our mind to place itself in 
contrast to itself, and to view and treat itself as if it were some- 
body else. (I do not here answer the question whether this phe- 
nomenon represents a transference of the empirically prior inter- 
individual relation to the elements within the individual, or 
whether it is a purely spontaneous process originating in these 

On the other hand we find this. Once the normative forms 
have received particular contents, these contents are emanci- 

100 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

pated from their original sociological vehicles, and attain an 
inner and autonomous necessity that deserves the designation 
of '‘ideal/' At this stage, these contents, which actually are be- 
haviors or states of individuals, are in themselves valuable; they 
ought to be. Their social nature or significance is no longer alone 
in giving them their imperative character: at this stage, it rather 
derives from their objectively ideal significance and value. It is 
true that morality becomes personalized. It is furthermore true 
that the three general norms of custom, law, and morality itself 
develop into objective and super-social phenomena. But neither 
fact prevents our emphasizing here that their contents are socially 
purposeful, and that those three forms themselves make sure that 
their contents are actually realized through the individual. 

We deal here with forms of the intrinsic and extrinsic relation 
of the individual to his social group. For, the same contents of 
this relation has historically been clothed in different motiva- 
tions or forms. What at one time or place was a custom, elsewhere 
or later has been a law of the state or has been left to private 
morality. What was under the coercion of law, has become mere 
good custom. What was the matter of individual conscience, later 
has often enough been legally enforced by the state, etc. The 
poles of this continuum are law and morality, and between them 
stands custom, out of which both have developed. In the legal 
code and in the executive, law has specialized organs through 
which its contents are precisely defined and externally enforced. 
For this reason, law is best limited to the indispensable pre- 
suppositions of group life: what the group can unconditionally 
require of the individual is only what it must require uncon- 
ditionally. By contrast, the free morality of the individual knows 
no other law than that which he autonomously gives himself, and 
no other executive power than his own conscience. In practice, 
therefore, its jurisdiction has accidental and fluid borderlines 
that change from case to case,® although in principle it extends 
to the totality of action. 

8 The fact that law and morality derive (as it were) together from one shift in 
societal development, is reflected in their teleological functions which are more 
closely interrelated than appears on first sight. When strict individual conduct, 
which is characteristic of a life pervasively regulated by custom, yields to a general 
legal norm with its much greater distance from ail individual matters, the freedom 

Custom, Law, Morality 101 

A gro up secures the suitable behavior of its members throug h 
custori ir when legal coercion is not permissible and individu al 
morality n ot reliable. Custom thus operates as a supplement of 
tKese otner two ora^s, whereas at a time when these more dif- 
ferentiated kinds of norms did not yet exist, or existed only in a 
germinal form, it was the only regulation of life. This indicates 
the sociological locus of custom . Custom lies between the larges t 
^ou p, as a member of which the individual is rather subject to 
law, and absolute individuali ty, which is the sole vehicle of free 
morality. In other words, it belongs to smaller groups, inter- 
mediate between these two extremes. In fact, almost all custom 
is custom of estate or Its manifestations, as external be- 

havior, fashion, or honor, always characterize only a section of 
the society, while the whole of this society is dominated by the 
same law.'* It is the smaller group, composed of those whom the 
violation of good custom somehow concerns or who witness it, 
which reacts to this violation, whereas a breach of the legal order 
provokes the whole society. Since the only executive organs of 
custom are public opinion and certain individual reactions di- 

that the individual has thus gained must nevertheless, in the interest o£ society, not 
be left to itself. Legal imperatives are supplemented by moral imperatives, and fill 
the gaps that the disappearance of ubiquitous custom has left in the norms. In com- 
parison with custom, moral and legal norms lie much higher above the individual 
and, at the same time, much more deeply within him. For, whatever personal and 
metaphysical values may be constituted by conscience and autonomous morality, 
their social value, which alone is in question here, lies in their extraordinary 
prophylactic efficiency. Law and custom seize the will externally and in its realiza- 
tion; they anticipate and threaten; and, in order to be effective without fear, they 
usually, though not always, must become part of personal morality. It is personal 
morality which is at the root of action. It so transforms the innermost aspect of the 
individual that he automatically does the right deed without the help of the 
relatively external forces of law and custom. Yet society is not interested in his 
purely moral perfection. Individual morality is important to society and is bred 
by it only insofar as it guarantees as much as possible that the individual act in a 
socially efficient manner. In individual morality, society creates an organ which is 
not only more deeply effective than law and custom, but which also saves society 
the expenditures and labors involved in these institutions. In its tendency to obtain 
its prerequisites as cheaply as possible, society also makes use of “good conscience." 
For through his conscience the individual rewards himself for his good deeds; 
while if he had no conscience, society would probably have to guarantee him this 
reward somehow by means of law or custom. 

* Cf. the discussion of the sociological form of honor in the chapters on the self- 
preservation of the group and on the intersection of groups. [Neither of these is 
contained in the present volume.] 

102 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

rectly related to public opinion, a large group itself cannot ad- 
minister custom. The everyday experience in which business cus- 
tom permits and enjoins other things than aristocratic custom, in 
which the custom of a religious group involves other things than 
that of a literary society, etc., suggests that the content of custo m 
consists of the spec i fic conditions necessary for a particu largro^. 
For in order to guarantee the^ conditions, the ^oup can use 
neither the coercive power of the state law nor any reliable 
autonomous morality of the individual. 

The only aspect which these groups share with primitive 
groups, with which social history begins for us, is numerical 
smallness. Life forms that originally were sufficient for the to- 
tality have come to characterize its subdivisions, as the totality 
itself has increased. For it is these totalities which now contain 
the possibilities of personal relation, the approximately equal 
level among their members, and the common interests and ideals, 
by virtue of which social regulations can be left to such pre- 
carious and elastic a norm as custom. But when the members 
increase in number and thereby inevitably become more inde- 
pendent, these conditions no longer obtain for the whole group. 
The peculiar cohesive power of custom is not enough for the 
State and too much for the individual, while its content is too 
much for the State and too little for the individual. The State 
requires surer guarantees; the individual requires greater free- 
dom. Only in those aspects in which the individual is still a 
member of smaller groups is he still governed, socially, by 

The fact that the lar ^ )a^i;tt3r: tboth requires and permits the 
rigorous and objective nor m which is crystallized in la w, is so me- 
[low to the g reater freedom, mobiTity. and Individual iza- 

tion of its me mber s. Thisl^rocess involves the need for a clearer 
detSTOlilMlbiTand severer surveillance of socially necessary in- 
hibitions. But on the other hand, the increased restriction is 
more bearable for the individual because, outside of it, he has a 
sphere of freedom which is all the greater. The process becomes 
the more evident, the more law, or a norm approaching it, is an 
agency of inhibition and forbiddance. Among Brazilian aborig- 
ines, a man is in general not allowed to marry the daughter of his 
sister or his brother. This tabu is the more severe the larger 

Custom, Law, Morality lOS 

the tribe; while, in smaller, more isolated hordes brother and 
sister frequently live together. The prohibitive character of the 
norm — which is more characteristic of law than of custom — is 
more indicated in the larger group, because this group compen- 
sates the individual more richly and positively than the small 
group does. There is still another aspect which shows that the 
enlargement of the group favors the transition of its norms t o 
the form of law . Numerous unifications of smaller groups into 
larger ones occurred originally (or are maintained even perma- 
nently) only for the sake of law enforcement; and their unity 
is founded exclusively in a pervasive legal order. The county of 
the New England states was originally only “an aggregation of 
towns for judicial purposes.” 

There a re apparen t exceptions to this dependenc e of cmt^m 
and law on quantitative differences of group s. The original units 
of the Germanic tribes, which resulted in the great Frankish, 
English, and Swedish realms, were often able to preserve for 
long periods their own jurisdictions that became state matters 
only relatively late. Inversely, in modern international relations 
there are many customs that have not yet become fixed as laws. 
Again, within a particular state, certain modes of conduct are 
regulated by law which in relation to the outside, that is, within 
the ultimate group, must be left to the looser form of custom. 

It is simple to account for these apparent exceptions. 
Obviously, the size of the group requires the law form only to 
the extent to which its elements form a unity. Where only 
tenuous common characteristics, rather than a firm centraliza- 
tion, permit the designation of the group as a group, the relative 
character of this designation becomes clearly evident. “Social 
unity” is a concept of degree. Variations in unity may be accom- 
panied by changing the forms of group regulations, or by chang- 
ing group size. Accordingly, a given form of regulation required 
by a certain group size may be the same as that required by a 
group of a different size, or it may be different from that required 
by a group of the same size. The significance of numerical con- 
ditions is thus not impaired when we find that a large group, 
because of its special tasks, may do, or even must do, without 
the legalization of its norms — something which in general is 
characteristic only of smaller groups. The cumbersome state 

104 On the Significance of Numbers for Social Life 

forms of Germanic antiquity simply did not yet possess the cohe- 
sion of their members which, if it occurs in the large group, is 
both cause and effect of its legal constitution. By a similar argu- 
ment we can explain why, in the collective as well as in the 
individual relations among modem states, certain norms are 
constituted by mere custom. The reason is the lack of a unity 
above the parties which would be the vehicle of a legal order. 
In both smaller and looser groups, this unity is replaced by the 
immediate interaction among their members; and the regulation 
which corresponds to this intimate interaction is custom. In other 
words, the seeming exceptions actually confirm the connection 
between custom and law, on the one hand, and the quantitative 
aspects of the group, on the other. 

Chapter 2 

The Quantitative Determination 
of Group Divisions 
and of Certain Groups 

§ !• Introduction 


‘'large§ ** and “small** groups are extremely crude scientific desig- 
nations, indeterminate and vague. They are useful, really, only 
as a suggestion that the sociological form of the group depend s 
u pon its quantitative aspects . But they are quite insufficient to 
show the real connection between the two in any more precise 
manner. Yet it fs perhaps not always impossible to determine 
this relation more exactly. To be sure, during the foreseeable 
future in the development of our knowledge, it would be a 
wholly fantastic enterprise if we wanted to express the formations 
and relations so far discussed in exact numerical values. Never- 
theless, within modest limits, namely in regard to characteristic 
sociations among small numbers of persons, certain traits can be 
indicated even at this stage of our knowledge. As transitions from 
complete numerical determinateness, I shall discuss some cases 
in which the quantitative determination of the group is already 
of some sociological significance but is not yet fixed in every 

§ 2. Numerically Equal Subdivisions 

The number operates as a classificatory principle within the 
group. That is, parts of the group which are formed through 
enumeration function as relative units. At this point, I merely 


106 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

emphasize this general principle; later I shall discuss the sig- 
nificance of particular individual numbers. The division of a 
unified group, and more especially, its division not only from top 
to bottom, in terms of ruling and being ruled, but among its 
coordinated members, is one of the most extraordinary advances 
made by mankind. It is the anatomical structure which forms the 
basis of the higher organic and social processes. The classification 
may derive from ancestry, or from associations based on volun- 
tary pledges, or from identity of occupation, or from grouping 
by local districts. All these principles of classification are com- 
bined with the quantitative principle: the mass of existing men 
or families is divided by a certain number and thus yields nu- 
merically equal subdivisions. To each of them, the whole has 
approximately the same relation as each subdivision has to its 
component individuals. This principle is, however, so mechan- 
ical that in order to operate it must be combined with a more 
concrete one: numerical equal subdivisions are composed either 
of persons who are somehow related — relatives, friends, neigh- 
bors — or of equals or unequals who supplement one another. 
Yet the numerical identity constitutes the formal principle of 
classification, even though it never decides alone. But it always 
plays its role, which may be very important, or may be almost 

Nomadic tribes, for instance, often lack all stable content 
life; they hardly have any possibility of organization except by 
number; and the significance of number for a group on the 
march determines military organization to this day. Quite nat- 
urally, the principle of division according to numerically equal 
cadres is often applied to the distribution of a conquered terri- 
tory or to the colonization of a newly discovered country when 
(in the beginning at least) objective criteria of organization are 
lacking. It governs, for instance, the oldest constitution of Ice- 
land. By its very pure application, Kleisthenes’ reform achieved 
one of the greatest social-historical innovations: when he insti- 
tuted the Council of 500 members, fifty from each of the ten 
phyles, he had every demos receive a number of councilorships 
proportionate to the number of its inhabitants. The rational 
idea of constituting a representative body out of the total group, 
on a wholly numerical basis, transcends the stage of development 

The Number as a Symbol of Group Division 107 

characterized by the “century** [group of one hundred] (which 
will be discussed later). For the first time in history, the purely 
numerical division is used for establishing governmental units 
as symbols of the population. 

§ 3. The Number as a Symbol of Group Division 

Thus far we have discussed cases where different subdivisions 
are numerically equal. Numbers can also be used, however, to 
characterize a group, more particularly, a leading group of per- 
sons, within a larger totality. Thus, guild masters were often 
designated by their number: in Frankfort, the wool weavers* 
heads were called the “Six,** and the bakers* the “Eight**; in 
medieval Barcelona, the senate was known as the “Hundred**; 
etc. It is very remarkable how the most outstanding persons are 
called after the least characteristic feature, number, which is 
completely indifferent to all quality. The basis of this, it seems 
to me, lies in the fact that “six** (or any other such number) does 
not refer to six individual and isolated elements but to their 
synthesis. “Six’* is not “i plus i plus i,** etc., but a new concept 
emerging from the synthesis of these elements: it is not^ so to 
speak, proportionately present in each of them. In this book, 
I of ten designate the living, functional interaction of elements 
as their unity, which is above their mere sum, and in sociologi cal 
co ntrast with it . And we do find here that when an administrative 
body or a committee, etc,, is called by its mere number, in reality 
the idea expressed by this sum is the functional interactive to- 
getherness of the group; and the numerical designation is pos- 
sible because a number does refer to a unit consisting of other 
units. In the case mentioned, the “Six** are not dispersed over 
a homogeneous group but reflect a particular differentiation of 
it, by virtue of which six of its members are singled out and grow 
together into a leading unit. It is exactly the characterless and 
impersonal nature of numerical designation which is characteris- 
tic here: more forcefully than any other less formal concept 
could do it, it indicates the fact that it refers not to individuals 
as persons but to a purely social structure. The structure of the 
group requires a certain quota of its members for leadership. 
The purely numerical concept implies the purely objective 

108 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

character of the formation, which is indifferent to any personal 
features the member may have, and only requires that he be one 
of the ‘'Six/* Really, there is perhaps no more effective way of 
expressing an individual’s high social status, along with the 
complete irrelevance of whatever he may be as a person outside 
his group function. 

This sort of group unit which is revealed by the numerical 
distinction of certain group elements receives particular em- 
phasis in an apparently contradictory case. The above-mentioned 
Barcelona senate, the “Hundred,” actually came to have more 
than lOO members (up to 200 ), without for that reason changing 
its name. A similar phenomenon occurs when the number op- 
erates not as a distinguishing, but as a classifying principle: 
where populations are divided by hundreds (see below), the exact 
preservation of this number for each subdivision is probably 
never strictly enforced. This is explicitly reported in regard to 
the old Germanic Hundreds. The number, in other words, be- 
comes the immediate synonym of the social subdivision (which 
only originally included, or was supposed to include, exactly 
such a number of individuals). This seemingly trifling fact shows 
the enormous importance which the numerical character has for 
the structure of the group. The number becomes independent 
even of its arithmetic content: all it indicates is that the relation 
of the members to the whole is numerical; the number, which 
has become stable, represents this relation. To consist of a hun- 
dred elements remains, as it were, the idea of the subdivision, 
while empirical conditions reflect this idea only imperfectly. 
It has been said of the Germanic Hundreds that they were sup- 
posed to express only an indeterminate number somewhere 
between the single individual and the whole society; and, in 
fact, this very clearly describes the sociological phenomenon 
discussed here. The life of the group requires some medium 
between the One and the All, an agent of certain functions that 
neither the individual nor the totality can carry out, and the 
group designated for this task is called after its numerical de- 
termination. It is not its functions which give it its name, for 
they are numerous and changing; what is stable is only the articu- 
lation of some part of the totality into a unit. The size of this 
part varies from case to case; the ever-recurring designation by 

Group Organization on Numerical Principles 109 

number shows that the numerical relation itself is felt to be 

We are here confronted in the social field with a process 
whose psychological form is also seen elsewhere. Thus, the 
various types of Russian coins are supposed to derive from an 
old system of weights in which each higher denomination con- 
tained ten times the amount of the next lower. In actuality, 
however, both the absolute and the relative metallic contents of 
the coins changed, while their respective values, once they had 
been brought into the numerical order described, remained the 
same. In other words, the actual metallic-value relations among 
the coins shift. But the function, which the coins fulfill by virtue 
of their constant nominal-value relations, derives from the his- 
torically earliest weight proportions which have given the 
nominal-value relations permanent names and symbols. There 
are still more cases in which the number comes to represent the 
thing that it counts. In all of them the essential feature is, once 
more, that the relation between whole and part is designated by 
the earliest numerical concept that covers all later changes. The 
tax on miners in sixteenth-century Spain was called the quinto 
because it amounted to one-fifth the value of the mined metal; 
and it kept this name although value proportions changed con- 
siderably. The word ‘‘tithe,"' among the old Israelites and in 
many other places, came to refer to any sort of tribute whatever — 
as “Hundred” came to stand for “subdivision” in general. 
Psychologically, the quantitative relation, which is the principle 
of taxation as much as of social division, leaves its particular 
contents behind. This is seen most decisively in the fact that the 
original numerical characterization comes to designate any 
modifications of the subdivision to which it originally referred. 

§ 4 . Group Organization on Numerical Principles and 
Its Effect upon the Individual 

Numerical characterization as a form of organization marks 
an important step in the development of society. Historically, 
numerical division replaces the principle of the sib. It seems 
that in many places groups originally consisted of subgroups 
which were tied to one another by kinship and each of which 

110 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

formed a unit in economic, political, penal, and other respects. 
The fact that this intrinsically well-founded organization was 
replaced by divisions of ten or a hundred men each, who were 
united for the performance of particular tasks, looks, at first 
glance, like a strange, superficial process, like a schematization 
lacking all inner life. And indeed, we would search the inherent, 
cohesive principles of these groups in vain to find a justification 
why the older order with its organic roots was replaced by a 
mechanic and formalistic one. The reason for this change rather 
lies in the whole group which is composed of such subdivisions 
and whose requirements are autonomous and not the same as 
the life principles of its parts. In the measure in which the whole 
unit gains in content and strength, its parts lose their own sig- 
nificance — at least in the beginning, and at the stage preceding 
the highest development, as we shall see presently. The parts 
transfer their own significance to the larger group. They are the 
more useful, the less they embody their own ideas and the more, 
as colorless parts, they receive some position and significance 
from their contributions to the whole. This is not true in certain 
highest types of development: there are social structures which 
precisely when they have attained a very large size and a perfect 
organization, can grant the individual the greatest freedom to 
live his life according to his own particular norms and in the 
most individualized form. And on the other hand, there are 
groups which reach their greatest strength only when their mem- 
bers have attained the most intense and differentiated indi- 
vidualization. The transition from sib to Hundred, however, 
seems to characterize that intermediate stage where the mem- 
bers' intrinsic lack of significance and character marks an advance 
of the whole. For only in divisions by Hundreds are the indi- 
vidual members easily surveyed and guided according to 
simple norms and without resistance to the central power, a 
resistance which arises only too easily when each subgroup has 
a strong feeling of inner solidarity. 

Where the organization or action of the group is numerically 
defined — from the old Hundred to modern majority rule — the 
individual is violated. This is a point at which the profound 
inner discrepancy between the properly democratic and the 
liberal-individualistic idea of society appears with striking evi- 

The Social Gathering ('Tarty*) 111 

dence. That personalities are transformed into “round numbers” 
operating without regard for the peculiarities of the individuals 
who constitute these numbers; that votes are counted rather than 
weighed; that institutions, commands, prohibitions, services, and 
privileges are defined in terms of certain numbers of persons, at 
least in principle — this is either despotic or democratic. Whether 
it is one or the other, it involves a diminution of the specific and 
full content of the individual personality and its substitution by 
the formal fact that the personality is, simply, one. By occupying 
a place in an organization which is determined by number only, 
its character as a group member has completely superseded its 
individual and differentiated character. Whether the division 
into numerically equal subgroups be as crude and practically 
as often modified as it was in the Germanic, Peruvian, Chinese 
Hundreds, or as refined, efficient, and exact as it is in the modern 
army — it always shows the autonomy of the group in the clearest 
and most pitiless manner. In the first case, this group autonomy 
is a newly emerging tendency which still fights and compromises 
with other tendencies; in the second case, it is an absolute victory. 
The super-individual character of the group, the fact that its 
form no longer depends upon any contents of the component 
individuals, is noi^diere seen in a more absolute and emphatic 
manner than in the reduction of the principles of organization 
to purely arithmetic relations. The measure to which these 
numerical principles are approximated in practice — a matter 
which greatly varies from group to group — also is the measure 
to which the group idea in its most abstract form absorbs the 
individualities of its members. 

§ 5 . The Social Gathering ('Tarty^^) 

The sociological importance of quantitative aspects may also 
be observed in a social type which is characteristic of modern 
society, namely, the social gathering, or “party.” The number 
of persons at a “party” greatly varies, of course, according to 
circumstances. But there is still the question of how many per- 
sons must be invited before a “party” results. Evidently, this 
question is not answered by qualitative relations between host 
and guests. On the other hand, the group of two or three persons 

112 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

whom we meet quite formally and without any real contact, 
never constitutes a “party.*' But we do have one when we invite, 
say, fifteen of our closest friends. The number always remains 
decisive, although its specific magnitude depends, of course, on 
the kind and intimacy of the relations among the people. Three 
circumstances — the host’s relations to each of the guests, the rela- 
tions among the guests, and the way in which each participant 
interprets these relations — form the basis upon which the num- 
ber of members decides whether there occurs a “party” or a mere 
togetherness of a friendly or of an objective-utilitarian sort. 
A numerical modification, therefore, here produces a distinctly 
felt transformation into a specific sociological category, however 
little our psychological means enable us to determine the 
measure of this modification. But we can approximately describe 
at least the qualitative and sociological consequences of this 
quantitative occurrence. 

In the first place, a “party” requires a very specific external 
setup. If one invites one or two persons out of some thirty 
friends, one does not have to “put oneself to any trouble.” But 
if one invites all thirty at the same time, entirely new require- 
ments come up at once — in regard to food, drink, dress, forms 
of behavior; in short, there is a greatly increased consumption 
of things attractive and enjoyable to the senses. This is a very 
clear example of how seriously the mere formation of a mass 
lowers the level of the personality. A gathering of only a few 
persons permits considerable mutual adaptation. Common traits, 
which make up the content of sociability among these few in- 
dividuals, may include such comprehensive or refined aspects 
of their personalities that the gathering attains a character of 
spiritual refinement, of highly differentiated and developed 
psychic energies. But the more persons come together, the less 
is it probable that they converge in the more valuable and inti- 
mate sides of their natures, and the lower, therefore, lies the 
point that is common to their impulses and interests.*^ 

c Hence the complaint about the banality of social contact in the large betrays 
a complete lack of sociological understanding. It is unavoidable in principle, that 
the level at which a larger group in physical proximity can meet at all, should be 
relatively low. For, all higher and finer differentiations are of an individual nature 
and therefore are unsuitable for contents that could be shared. It is true that they 
may have a sociating effect, namely, where a unity is striven for by means of a 

The Social Gathering (*Tarty**) 113 

In the same degree in which the sheer number of individuals 
curtails the play of their higher and specific psychologies, an 
attempt must be made to compensate for this lack by an intensi- 
fication of external and sensuous attractions. Large numbers of 
persons that are assembled for some celebration have always 
been closely associated with a display of sensuous pleasure and 
luxury. At the end of the Middle Ages, for instance, the luxury 
exhibited at weddings by the mere number of attendants that 
accompanied the bridal pair increased to such a point that the 
sumptuary laws sometimes prescribed the exact maximum num- 
ber of persons that were allowed to form the escort. In an 
analogous manner, food and drink have always been the common 
denominators of large groups for which any other shared mood 
or interest are hard to attain. A ‘‘party,” therefore, merely be- 
cause of its emphasis on number, which excludes a common 
interaction of more refined and intellectual moods, must all the 
more strongly make use of these sensuous joys, that are shared 
by all with incomparably greater certainty. 

There is a second characteristic of the “party” that is based 
on its numerical difference from the meeting of only a few 
individuals. It is the fact that a complete harmony of mood, 
which is so characteristic of the small group, is here neither 
sought, nor could it be attained if it were. On the contrary — 
and this is a further difference — there easily occurs the formation 
of subgroups. The nature of a friendly gathering among few 
persons strenuously militates against its splitting up into two 
moods, even only into two conversations. In fact, the moment 
there is a dualism instead of an undisputed single center, we 
have a “party.” The dualism consists in this. On the one hand, 
there is a general but very loose core, which has only an external 
or even only a spatial basis. This is the reason why “parties” 
whose members come from the same social stratum resemble 
one another as wholes the more closely the larger they are, irre- 
spective of any variation or change in personnel. On the other 
hand, there is a continuous alteration between involvement and 

division of labor. This, however, is possible at a “party” only to a very slight extent, 
and if it were to occur in a more considerable measure, it would destroy the very 
nature of the “party.” It is therefore a sociologically quite correct instinct which 
often makes us consider the stressing of personal characteristics at a “party,” as a 
slight tactlessness — even where these characteristics are interesting and pleasing. 

114 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

release which, according to the nature of the individual, affects 
him as the most unbearable superficiality, or as a playful rhythm 
of great aesthetic charm. 

The formal-sociological type under discussion is embodied 
very clearly by the modern ball. Here the momentary, peculiar 
intimacy of the couple is transformed into a new phenomenon 
by its constant change among all the couples. The physical near- 
ness between total strangers is made possible by two factors. On 
the one hand, all participants in the ball are guests of a host 
who, however loose their relations may be to him, nevertheless 
guarantees a certain reciprocal security and legitimation. On 
the other hand, relations are impersonal and as it were anony- 
mous, because of the magnitude of the group and the associated 
formalism of behavior. These characteristics of the large ‘'party,§ ** 
which the ball presents in a sublimated if not caricatured form, 
depend on a certain minimum number of participants. In fact, 
occasionally one can make the interesting observation that an 
intimate circle of a few persons attains the character of a “party** 
if only one more person is added to it. 

§ 6 . The Extended Family 

There is one case (which, however, concerns a much less 
complex human group) where the number that produces a par- 
ticular sociological structure appears rather definitely fixed. 
In many different places, the extended patriarchal family always 
numbers from twenty to thirty members, in spite of very dif- 
ferent economic conditions. These conditions, therefore, cannot, 
or not exclusively, determine the recurrence of the number. 
It is rather probable that the kind of intrinsic interactions that 
is characteristic of this particular family structure, produces the 
required proportions of narrowness and latitude only within 
these numerical limits. 

The patriarchal family is everywhere characterized by great 
intimacy and solidarity with its center in the pater familias, and 
by the guardianship over the affairs of each member that is 
exerted by the father, both in the interest of the whole and in 
his own. This determines the upper limit: given the psycholog- 
ical development that corresponds with this form of the family. 

Quantity and Quality 115 

the kind of dependence and control characteristic of it seems 
to fail if it is extended over a larger number of individuals. The 
lower limit is given by the fact that autonomous groups must 
develop certain collective psychological features if they are to 
be self-sufficient and to maintain themselves; and this is possible 
only above a certain number. These features are readiness for 
offense and defense, confidence of each member to find at all 
times what support and supplementation he may need, and 
above all, a religious mood whose elevation and sublimation rise 
above the individual (or elevate the individual above himself) 
only if there is a mixture of many contributions and an extinc- 
tion of the separate, individual religiosity. The number men- 
tioned may have indicated the approximate range, as found by 
experience, above and below which the group could not go if 
it was to develop these traits of the extended patriarchal family. 
Before this range was found, increasing individualization seems 
to have restricted such intimacy to ever smaller numbers of 
persons, while on the other hand, the factors which appealed 
to an increased size of the family required, in fact, an ever larger 
group. The needs from above and from below that were satisfied 
precisely by this numerical structure have since become dif- 
ferentiated. Part of them demands a smaller, part a larger group, 
so that later we no longer find a structure which meets them in 
the same unified manner as the patriarchal family did. 

§ 7 . Quantity and Quality 

Aside from such singular cases, all questions of which the 
numerical requirements of a “party” was an example, have the 
tone of sophistry. How many soldiers make an army? How many 
participants are needed to form a political party? How many 
people make a crowd? All seem to repeat the classical riddle: 
How many grains of wheat make a heap? Since one, two, three, 
or four grains do not, while a thousand certainly do, there must 
be a limit after which the addition of a single grain transforms 
the existing single grains into a “heap.” But if the attempt at 
such an enumeration is made, it appears that nobody can indicate 
this limit. The logical ground of the difficulty lies in this. We 
are dealing with a quantitative series each of whose individual 

116 Quantitative Determination of Group Divisions 

members is relatively insignificant. For this reason, the series 
appears to be continuous and ascending without break. Yet at 
the same time, this same series is supposed to permit, at a certain 
point, the application o£ a qualitatively new concept which is 
completely different from the concept previously employed. 
This, obviously, is an inconsistent demand: the continuous, by 
its very definition, cannot evolve, purely out of itself, a sudden 
break and transmutation. Yet the sociological difficulty shows a 
complication beyond the problem faced by the ancient Sophists. 
For, “heap** of grains either refers to a pile, and then the desig- 
nation is logically justified as soon as one other layer is added 
to the undermost layer. Or ‘'heap** refers to “quantity in gen- 
eral,** and then it is quite unjustifiable to demand of this concept, 
which by definition is vague and undetermined, that it apply 
only to strictly determined and unequivocally defined realities. 

In sociological cases, however, increasing quantity results in 
entirely new phenomena which, in a smaller number, seem to be 
absent even in a slighter proportion. A political party has a 
qualitatively different significance from a small clique. A few 
people who stand together from curiosity show traits different 
from those of a “crowd**; etc. The uncertainty of all these con- 
cepts results from the impossibility of ascertaining any particular 
quantity. It may perhaps be removed in this manner. Evidently 
the uncertainty only applies to certain intermediate magnitudes. 
Very small numbers unquestionably do not result in political 
parties, crowds, etc., while very large ones do so most assuredly. 
But the numerically small structures also have characteristic 
sociological qualities — as, for instance, the gathering which is 
not yet a “party,** the troop of soldiers which does not yet make 
up an army, the conniving rogues who do not yet constitute a 
“gang.** These qualities contrast with other qualities which are 
unquestionably the traits of the large group. The character of 
the numerically intermediate structure, therefore, can be ex- 
plained as a mixture of both: so that each of the features of both 
the small and the large group appears, in the intermediate group, 
as a fragmentary trait, now emerging, now disappearing or be- 
coming latent. 

Thus, the intermediate structures objectively share the es- 
sential character of the smaller and of the larger structures — par- 

Quantity and Quality 117 

tially or alternately. This explains the subjective uncertainty 
regarding the decision to which o£ the two they belong. The 
point, thus, is not that a highly specific sociological constellation 
suddenly emerges (like a crystal in a solution) in a structure 
which has no sociological quality whatever, and that there is no 
way of ascertaining the moment of this transformation. Rather, 
there are two different formations each of which has certain traits 
and can be arranged on many qualitative continua. Uri^der cer- 
tain quantitative conditions, these two formations fuse into a 
social structure which they divide between themselves in varying 
degrees. The question, therefore, in which of the two formations 
the social structure belongs, does not suffer from any epistemo- 
logical difficulties characteristic of continuous series, but is an 
objectively false question.® 

6 More exactly, however, the situation is probably this. To each particular num- 
ber of elements, according to the purpose and significance of their grouping, there 
corresponds a sociological form, organization, firmness, stability, relation of whole 
to parts, etc., which changes with each added or subtracted element, although the 
change may be immeasurably small and not ascertainable. We do not have a par- 
ticular term for each of these innumerable sociological states, even where we notice 
its character. We, therefore, are often forced to think of it as composed of two 
states, of which the one strikes us as more important, and the other as less. But we 
have as little to do with sums, properly speaking, as we do in the case of the 
so-called mixed feelingioC friendship and love, hate and contempt, or pleasure and 
pain. Rather (we shall have to come back to this), we usually deal here with uni- 
form feelings, for which we merely have no directly applicable concept. Therefore, 
instead of describing them, we circumscribe them by means of a synthesis and 
mutual delimitation of two other concepts. 

Here as elsewhere, the intrinsic unity of being is inconceivable to us. We arc 
forced to dissolve it into a duality of elements, neither of which quite covers it 
and from whose interweaving we make it result. But to do this is only a conceptual 
analysis which is possible in retrospect and which does not retrace the real genetic 
process, the real being of the unit. Therefore, where the available designations of 
social units — “gathering” and “society,” “troop” and “army,” “clique” and “party,” 
“pair” and “band,” “personal following” and “school,” “small group” and “mass 
demonstration” — cannot be applied with certainty, because the number of people 
under consideration seems too slight for one and too large for another, we are 
nevertheless dealing with a specific sociological form. It is exactly as unified as is 
the more clearly defined case, and it corresponds to an equally precise numerical 
condition. Only the lack of specific concepts for the designation of these innumer- 
able nuances compels us to denote their qualities as mixtures of forms correlated 
with numerically inferior and numerically superior structures. 

Chapter 3 

The Isolated Individual 
and the Dyad 

§ 1 . Introduction 


this point concerned social formations which depend on the 
number of their component elements. But our insight was in- 
capable of formulating this dependence in a way which would 
have allowed us to derive sociological consequences from certain 
specific numbers. This is not impossible, however, if we con- 
tent ourselves with sufficiently simple structures. If we begin 
with the lower limit of the numerical series, there appear 
arithmetically definite magnitudes as the unequivocal pre- 
suppositions of characteristic sociological formations. 

§ 2 . The Isolated Individual 

The numerically simplest structures which can still be desig- 
nated as social interactions occur between two elements. Never- 
theless, there is an externally even simpler phenomenon that 
belongs among sociological categories, however paradoxical and 
in fact contradictory this may seem — namely, the isolated indi- 
vidual. As a matter of fact, however, the processes that shape 
elements in the dual are often simpler than those required for 
the sociological characterization of the singular. For this, two 
phenomena are above all relevant here: isolation and freedom. 
The mere fact that an individual does not interact with others 
is, of course, not a sociological fact, but neither does it express 
the whole idea of isolation. For, isolation, insofar as it is import- 
ant to the individual, refers by no means only to the absence 


The Isolated Individual 119 

of society. On the contrary, the idea involves the somehow 
imagined, but then rejected, existence of society. Isolation at- 
tains its unequivocal, positive significance only as society’s effect 
at a distance — whether as lingering-on of past relations, as antici- 
pation of future contacts, as nostalgia, or as an intentional turn- 
ing away from society. The isolated man does not suggest a being 
that has been the only inhabitant of the globe from the begin- 
ning. For his condition, too, is determined by sociation, even 
though negatively. The whole joy and the whole bitterness of 
isolation are only different reactions to socially experienced 
influences. Isolation is interaction between two parties, one of 
which leaves, after exerting certain influences. The isolated indi- 
vidual is isolated only in reality, however; for ideally, in the mind 
of the other party, he continues to live and act. 

A well-known psychological fact is very relevant here. The 
feeling of isolation is rarely as decisive and intense when one 
actually finds oneself physically alone, as when one is a stranger, 
without relations, among many physically close persons, at a 
“party,” on a train, or in the traffic of a large city. The question 
whetlier a group favors or even permits such loneliness in its 
midst is an essential trait of the group structure itself. Close and 
intimate communities often allow no such intercellular vacuums. 
When we speak of anti-socal phenomena like wretched persons, 
criminals, prostitutes, suicides, etc., we may refer to them as a 
social deficit that is produced in a certain proportion to social 
conditions. In a similar way, a given quantity and quality of 
social life creates a certain number of temporarily or chronically 
lonely existences, although they cannot as easily be ascertained 
by statistics as can these others. 

§ 3. Isolation 

Isolation thus is a relation which is lodged within an indivi- 
dual but which exists between him and a certain group or group 
life in general. But it is sociologically significant in still another 
way: it may also be an interruption or periodic occurrence in 
a given relationship between two or more persons. As such, it is 
especially important in those relations whose very nature is the 
denial of isolation. This applies, above all, to monogamous mar- 

120 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

riage. The structure of a particular marriage, of course, may not 
even involve the finest and most intimate nuances of the mates. 
But where it does, there is an essential difference between the 
case in which they have preserved the joy of individual isolation 
in spite of the perfect happiness of their life in common, and 
the case in which the relation is never interrupted by devotion 
to solitude. The second case may have various reasons. Habitua- 
tion to the life in common may have deprived isolation of its 
attractiveness; or insufficient certainty of love may make inter- 
ruption by solitude feared as unfaithfulness or, what is worse, as 
a danger to faithfulness. At any rate, it is clear that isolation is not 
limited to the individual and is not the mere negation of associa- 
tion. It also has a positive sociological significance. As a con- 
scious feeling on the part of the individual, it represents a very 
specific relation to society. And furthermore, its occurrence 
changes the nature of both large and very intimate groups, 
whereby it may be the cause as well as the effect of this change. 

§ 4. Freedom 

Here, too, belongs one of the many sociological aspects of 
freedom. At first glance, freedom, like isolation, seems to be the 
mere negation of sociation. For, while every sociation involves a 
tie, the free man does not form a unit with others, but is a unit 
by himself. It may be that there is a kind of freedom which is 
actually nothing but the lack of relations, or the absence of re- 
strictions by others. A Christian or Hindu hermit, a lonely settler 
in the old Germanic or, more recently, in the American forests, 
may enjoy freedom in the sense that his existence is completely 
filled by non-social contents; and something similar may be said 
of a collectivity (a house community or a state, for instance) that 
exists, like an island, with no neighbors and with no relations 
to other collectivities. But, for an individual who does have 
relations to other individuals, freedom has a much more posi- 
tive significance. For him, freedom itself is a specific relation to 
the environment. It is a correlative phenomenon which loses 
its very meaning in the absence of a counterpart. In regard to 
this counterpart, freedom has two aspects that are of the greatest 
importance for the structure of society. 

Freedom 121 

(1) For social man, freedom is neither a state that exists 
always and can be taken for granted, nor a possession of a ma- 
terial substance, so to speak, that has been acquired once and all. 
One reason why freedom is none of these things we shall see in 
a moment. It should be noted that every important claim which 
engages the strength of the individual in a certain direction 
has the tendency to go on indefinitely, to appear completely 
autonomous. Almost all relations — of the state, the party, the 
family, of friendship or love — quite naturally, as it were, seem 
to be on an inclined plane: if they were left to themselves, they 
would extend their claims over the whole of man. They are, 
often uncannily, surrounded by an ideal halo from which the 
individual must explicitly mark oft some reserve of forces, devo- 
tions, and interests that he has taken away from these relations. 
But it is not only through the extensity of claims that the egoism 
of every sociation threatens the freedom of the individuals en- 
gaged in it. It does so also through the relentlessness of the claim 
itself, which is one-tracked and monopolistic. Usually, each 
claim presses its rights in complete and pitiless indifference to 
other interests and duties, no matter whether they be in harmony 
or in utter incompatibility with it. It thus limits the individual's 
freedom as much as does the large number of the claims on him. 
In the face of this nature of our relations, freedom emerges as a 
continuous process of liberation, as a fight, not only for our 
independence, but also for the right, at every moment and of 
our own free will, to remain dependent. This fight must be re- 
newed after every victory. Thus, the absence of relations, as a 
negative social behavior, is almost never a secure possession but 
an incessant release from ties which actually limit the autonomy 
of the individual or which ideally strive to do so. Freedom is not 
solipsistic existence but sociological action. It is not a condition 
limited to the single individual but a relationship, even though 
it is a relationship from the standpoint of the individual. 

(2) Freedom is something quite different from rejection of 
relations or immunity of the individual sphere from adjacent 
spheres — not only in the function described, but also in its con- 
tents. This is suggested by the simple recognition of the fact 
that man does not only want to be free, but wants to use his 
freedom for some purpose. In large part, however, this use is 

122 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

nothing but the domination and exploitation of other men. To 
the social individual, that is, the individual who lives in constant 
interaction with others, freedom is very often without any con- 
tent and purpose if it does not permit, or even consist in, the 
extension of his will over others. Our idiom correctly charac- 
terizes certain brusque and violent acts as '‘taking liberties 
with somebody.” In related fashion, many languages use their 
word for “freedom” in the sense of “right” or “privilege.” The 
purely negative character of freedom, as a relation of the indi- 
vidual to himself, is thus supplemented in two directions by a 
very positive character. To a great extent, freedom consists in a 
process of liberation; it rises above a bond, contrasts with a 
bond; it finds its meaning, consciousness, and value only as a 
reaction to it. But it no less consists in a power relation to others, 
in the possibility of making oneself count within a given rela- 
tionship, in the obligation or submission of others, in which 
alone it finds its value and application. The significance of free- 
dom as something limited to the subject himself, thus, appears 
as the watershed between its two social functions, as it were; and 
they are based on the simple fact that the individual is tied by 
others and ties others. The subjective significance of freedom 
hence approximates zero, but it reveals its real significance in this 
twofold sociological relation, even where freedom is conceived 
as an individual quality. 

§ 5 . The Dyad 

We see that such phenomena as isolation and freedom actu- 
ally exist as forms of sociological relations, although they often 
do so only by means of complex and indirect connections. In 
view of this fact, the simplest sociological formation, methodo- 
logically speaking, remains that which operates between two 
elements. It contains the scheme, germ, and material of in- 
numerable more complex forms. Its sociological significance, 
however, by no means rests on its extensions and multiplications 
only. It itself is a sociation. Not only are many general forms of 
sociation realized in it in a very pure and characteristic fashion; 
what is more, the limitation to two members is a condition under 
which alone several forms of relationship exist. Their typically 

The Dyad 12S 

sociological nature is suggested by two facts. One is that the 
greatest variation of individualities and unifying motives does 
not alter the identity of these forms. The other is that occasionally 
these forms exist as much between two groups — families, states, 
and organizations of various kinds — as between two individuals. 

Everyday experiences show the specific character that a rela- 
tionship attains by the fact that only two elements participate 
in it. A common fate or enterprise, an agreement or secret be- 
tween two persons, ties each of them in a very different manner 
than if even only three have a part in it. This is perhaps most 
characteristic of the secret. General experience seems to indicate 
that this minimum of two, with which the secret ceases to be 
the property of the one individual, is at the same time the maxi- 
mum at which its preservation is relatively secure. A secret 
religious-political society which was formed in the beginning of 
the nineteenth century in France and Italy, had different degrees 
among its members. The real secrets of the society were known 
only to the higher degrees; but a discussion of these secrets could 
take place only between any two members of the high degrees. 
The limit of two was felt to be so decisive that, where it could 
not be preserved in regard to knowledge, it was kept at least in 
regard to the vedbalization of this knowledge. More generally 
speaking, the difference between the dyad and larger groups 
consists in the fact that the dyad has a different relation to each 
of its two elements than have larger groups to their members. 
Although, for the outsider, the group consisting of two may 
function as an autonomous, super-individual unit, it usually 
does not do so for its participants. Rather, each of the two feels 
himself confronted only by the other, not by a collectivity above 
him. The social structure here rests immediately on the one and 
on the other of the two, and the secession of either would destroy 
the whole. The dyad, therefore, does not attain that super-per- 
sonal life which the individual feels to be independent of him- 
self. As soon, however, as there is a sociation of three, a group 
continues to exist even in case one of the members drops out. 

This dependence of the dyad upon its two individual mem- 
bers causes the thought of its existence to be accompanied by 

t Never Simmel’s term, but shorter and more convenient than his, which here, 
for instance, is *‘Zweierverhindun^* (“union of two”). — Tr. 

124 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

the thought of its termination much more closely and impres- 
sively than in any other group, where every member knows that 
even after his retirement or death, the group can continue to 
exist. Both the lives of the individual and that of the sociation 
are somehow colored by the imagination of their respective 
deaths. And ‘‘imagination*’ does not refer here only to theoreti- 
cal, conscious thought, but to a part or a modification of existence 
itself. Death stands before us, not like a fate that will strike at a 
certain moment but, prior to that moment, exists only as an 
idea or prophecy, as fear or hope, and without interfering with 
the reality of this life. Rather, the fact that we shall die is a 
quality inherent in life from the beginning. In all our living 
reality, there is something which merely finds its last phase or 
revelation in our death: we are, from birth on, beings that will 
die. We are this, of course, in different ways. The manner in 
which we conceive this nature of ours and its final effect, and in 
which we react to this conception, varies greatly. So does the 
way in which this element of our existence is interwoven with 
its other elements. But the same observations can be made in 
regard to groups. Ideally, any large group can be immortal. This 
fact gives each of its members, no matter what may be his per- 
sonal reaction to death, a very specific sociological feeling.® A 
dyad, however, depends on each of its two elements alone — in its 
death, though not in its life: for its life, it needs both, but for its 
death, only one. This fact is bound to influence the inner atti- 
tude of the individual toward the dyad, even though not always 
consciously nor in the same way. It makes the dyad into a group 
that feels itself both endangered and irreplaceable, and thus into 
the real locus not only of authentic sociological tragedy, but also 
of sentimentalism and elegiac problems. 

This feeling tone appears wherever the end of the union has 
become an organic part of its structure. Not long ago, there 
came news from a city in northern France regarding a strange 
“Association of the Broken Dish.” Years ago, some industrialists 
met for dinner. During the meal, a dish fell on the floor and 
broke. One of the diners noted that the number of pieces was 
identical with that of those present. One of them considered this 

8Cf. the more detailed discussion of this point in the chapter on the per- 
sistence of groups. [Not contained in this volume.] 

Characteristics of the Dyad 125 

an omen, and, in consequence of it, they founded a society of 
friends who owed one another service and help. Each of them 
took a part of the dish home with him. If one of them dies, his 
piece is sent to the president, who glues the fragments he receives 
together. The last survivor will fit the last piece, whereupon the 
reconstituted dish is to be interred. The “Society of the Broken 
Dish” will thus dissolve and disappear. The feeling within that 
society, as well as in regard to it, would no doubt be different 
if new members were admitted and the life of the group thereby 
perpetuated indefinitely. The fact that from the beginning it is 
defined as one that will die gives it a peculiar stamp — which 
the dyad, because of the numerical condition of its structure, 
has always. 

§ 6 . Characteristics of the Dyad 


It is for the same structural reason that in reality dyads alone 
are susceptible to the peculiar coloration or discoloration which 
we call triviality. For only where there is a claim on the irre- 
placeable individuality of appearance or performance, does its 
failure to materialize produce a feeling of triviality. We have 
hardly paid sufficient attention to the way in which relationships 
of like content take on a different color, according to whether 
their members think that there are many, or only very few, 
similar ones. And it is by no means only erotic relations which 
attain a special, significant timbre, beyond their describable 
content and value, through the notion that an experience like 
theirs has never existed before. Quite generally in fact, there is 
perhaps hardly any object of external possession whose value — 
not only its economic value — is not co-determined, consciously 
or no, by its rarity or frequency. And so, perhaps no relation 
is independent, in its inner significance for the participants, of 
the factor of “how many other times, too”; and this factor may 
even refer to the repetition of the same contents, situations, 
excitations within the relationship. “Triviality” connotes a cer- 
tain measure of frequency, of the consciousness that a content 
of life is repeated, while the value of this content depends on its 
very opposite — a certain measure of rarity. In regard to the life 

126 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

of a super-individual societal unit and the relation of the indi- 
vidual to such a unit, this question seems not to emerge. Here, 
where the content of the relation transcends individuality, indi- 
viduality in the sense of uniqueness or rarity seems to play no 
role, and its non-existence, therefore, seems not to have the effect 
of triviality. But in dyadic relations — love, marriage, friendship 
— and in larger groupings (often, for instance, “social parties”) 
which do not result in higher units, the tone of triviality fre- 
quently becomes desperate and fatal. This phenomenon indicates 
the sociological character of the dyad: the dyad is inseparable 
from the immediacy of interaction; for neither of its two ele- 
ments is it the super-individual unit which elsewhere confronts 
the individual, while at the same time it makes him participate 
in it. 


In the dyad, the sociological process remains, in principle, 
within personal interdependence and does not result in a struc- 
ture that grows beyond its elements. This also is the basis of 
“intimacy.” The “intimate” character of certain relations seems 
to me to derive from the individual's inclination to consider that 
which distinguishes him from others, that which is individual in 
a qualitative sense, as the core, value, and chief matter of his 
existence. The inclination is by no means always justifiable; in 
many people, the very opposite — that which is typical, which 
they share with many — is the essence and the substantial value 
of their personality. The same phenomenon can be noted in 
regard to groups. They, too, easily make their specific content, 
that is shared only by the members, not by outsiders, their center 
and real fulfillment. Here we have the form of intimacy. 

In probably each relation, there is a mixture of ingredients 
that its participants contribute to it alone and to no other, and 
of other ingredients that are not characteristic of it exclusively, 
but in the same or similar fashion are shared by its members 
with other persons as well. The peculiar color of intimacy exists 
if the ingredients of the first type, or more briefly, if the “in- 
ternal” side of the relation, is felt to be essential; if its whole 
affective structure is based on what each of the two participants 
gives or shows only to the one other person and to nobody else. 

Characteristics of the Dyad 127 

In other words, intimacy is not based on the content of the rela- 
tionship. Two relationships may have an identical mixture of 
the two types of ingredients, of individual-exclusive and expan- 
sive contents. But only that is intimate in which the former func- 
tion as the vehicle or the axis of the relation itself. Inversely, cer- 
tain external situations or moods may move us to make very 
personal statements and confessions, usually reserved for our 
closest friends only, to relatively strange people. But in such 
cases we nevertheless feel that this ‘'intimate'* content does not 
yet make the relation an intimate one. For in its basic signifi- 
cance, the whole relation to these people is based only on its 
general, un-individual ingredients. That “intimate" content, 
although we have perhaps never revealed it before and thus 
limit it entirely to this particular relationship, does nevertheless 
not become the basis of its form, and thus leaves it outside the 
sphere of intimacy. 

It is this nature of intimacy which so often makes it a danger 
to close unions between two persons, most commonly perhaps 
to marriage. The spouses share the indifferent “intimacies" of 
the day, the amiable and the unpleasant features of every hour, 
and the weaknesses that remain carefully hidden from all others. 
This easily causes them to place the accent and the substance of 
their relationship upon these wholly individual but objectively 
irrelevant matters. It leads them to consider what they share 
with others and what perhaps is the most important part of their 
personalities — objective, intellectual, generally interesting, gen- 
erous features — as lying outside the marital relation; and thus 
they gradually eliminate it from their marriage. 

It is obvious that the intimacy of the dyad is closely tied up 
with its sociological specialty, not to form a unit transcending 
the two members. For, in spite of the fact that the two individuals 
would be its only participants, this unit would nevertheless 
constitute a third element which might interpose itself between 
them. The larger the group is, the more easily does it form an 
objective unit up and above its members, and the less intimate 
does it become: the two characteristics are intrinsically con- 
nected. The condition of intimacy consists in the fact that the 
participants in a given relationship see only one another, and do 
not see, at the same time, an objective, super-individual struc- 

128 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

ture which they feel exists and operates on its own. Yet in all 
its purity, this condition is met only rarely even in groups of as 
few as three. Likewise, the third element in a relation between 
two individuals — the unit which has grown out of the interac- 
tion among the two — interferes with the most intimate nature of 
the dyad; and this is highly characteristic of its subtler structure. 
Indeed, it is so fundamental that even marriages occasionally 
succumb to it, namely, when the first child is born. The point 
deserves some further elaboration. 

§ 7. Monogamous Marriage 

The fact that male and female strive after their mutual union 
is the foremost example or primordial image of a dualism which 
stamps our life-contents generally. It always presses toward 
reconciliation, and both success and failure of the reconcilia- 
tion reveal this basic dualism only the more clearly. The union 
of man and woman is possible, precisely because they are oppo- 
sites. As something essentially unattainable, it stands in the way 
of the most passionate craving for convergence and fusion. The 
fact that, in any real and absolute sense, the “L' can not seize 
the “not-I,*' is felt nowhere more deeply than here, where their 
mutual supplementation and fusion seem to be the very reason 
for the opposites to exist at all. Passion seeks to tear down the 
borders of the ego and to absorb “F* and “thou’' in one another. 
But it is not they which become a unit: rather, a new unit 
emerges, the child. The parents’ nearness, which they can never 
attain to the extreme extent they desire but which always must 
remain a distance; and, on the other hand, their distance, which 
nevertheless to an infinite degree approaches their becoming- 
one — this is the peculiar dualistic condition in the form of which 
what has become, the child, stands between his creators. Their 
varying moods now let one of these two elements play its role, 
now the other. Therefore, cold, intrinsically alienated spouses 
do not wish a child: it might unify them; and this unifying func- 
tion would contrast the more effectively, but the less desirably, 
with the parents' overwhelming estrangement. Yet sometimes 
it is precisely the very passionate and intimate husband and 
wife who do not wish a child: it would separate them; the meta- 

Monogamous Marriage 129 

physical oneness into which they want to fuse alone with one 
another would be taken out of their hands and would confront 
them as a distinct, third element, a physical unit, that mediates 
between them. But to those who seek immediate unity, media- 
tion must appear as separation. Although a bridge connects two 
banks, it also makes the distance between them measurable; and 
where mediation is superfluous, it is worse than superfluous. 

Nevertheless, monogamous marriage does not seem to have 
the essential sociological character of the dyad, namely, absence 
of a super-personal unit. For, the common experience of bad 
marriages between excellent persons and of good marriages be- 
tween dubious ones, suggests that marriage, however much it 
depends on each of the spouses, may yet have a character not 
coinciding with either of them. Each of the two, for instance, may 
suffer from confusions, difficulties, and shortcomings, but man- 
ages to localize them in himself or herself, as it were, while con- 
tributing only the best and purest elements to the marital rela- 
tion, which thus is kept free from personal defects. If this is the 
case, the defect may still be considered the personal affair of the 
spouse. And yet we have the feeling that marriage is something 
super-personal, something which is valuable and sacred in itself, 
and which lies beyond whatever un-sacredness each of its ele- 
ments may possess. It is a relationship within which either of the 
two feels and behaves only with respect to the other. His or her 
characteristics, without (of course) ceasing to be such, neverthe- 
less receive a coloration, status, and significance that are different 
from what they would be if they were completely absorbed by 
the ego. For the consciousness of each of them, their relationship 
may thus become crystallized as an entity outside of them, an 
entity which is more and better (or worse, for that matter) than 
he or she is, toward which he has obligations and from which he 
receives good or fateful gifts, as if from some objective being. 

This rise of the group unit from its structure, which consists 
of the mere and ‘‘thou,’’ is facilitated, in the case of marriage, 
by two circumstances. First, there is its incomparable closeness. 
The fact that two fundamentally different beings, man and 
woman, form such a close union; that the egoism of each is so 
thoroughly suspended, not only in favor of the other, but also 
in favor of the general relationship, including the interests and 

130 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

the honor of the family and, above all, the children — this is 
really a miraculous fact. It is grounded in bases of the ego which 
rationalistically are inexplicable and which lie beyond its con- 
sciousness. It is also expressed in the distinction between the 
unit and its elements. That each of them feels the relation to be 
something with its own life-forces, merely indicates that it is 
incommensurable with the personal, self-contained ego, as we 
usually conceive it. 

The second point is that this idea is further corroborated by 
the super-individual character of marriage forms, which are 
socially regulated and historically transmitted. It is impossible 
to decide whether the immeasurable differences in the nature 
and value of individual marriages are larger or smaller than 
are those among individuals. But no matter how great either of 
the differences may be, no couple has by itself invented the form 
of marriage. Its various forms are valid, rather, within given cul- 
ture areas, as relatively fixed forms. In their formal nature, they 
are not subject to the arbitrary shadings and fates of individuals. 
If we look at the history of marriage, we are struck, for instance, 
by the important, always traditional role that is played by third 
persons during courtship, in negotiations regarding dowry, and 
in the wedding ceremonies proper. They are not always rela- 
tives: they include the priest who seals the marital union. This 
un-individualized initiation of marriage forcefully symbolizes 
its sociologically incomparable structure: in regard to its content 
and interest, as well as to its formal organization, this most per- 
sonal relation of all is taken over and directed by entirely super- 
personal, historical-social authority. This inclusion of traditional 
elements profoundly contrasts marriage with friendship and 
similar relations, in which individual freedom is permitted much 
more play. Marriage, essentially, allows only acceptance or re- 
jection, but not modification. It thus evidently favors the feeling 
of an objective form, of a super-personal unit. Although each of 
the two spouses is confronted by only the other, at least partially 
he also feels as he does when confronted by a collectivity; as the 
mere bearer of a super-individual structure whose nature and 
norms are independent of him, although he is an organic part of 

Modern culture seems more and more to individualize the 

Monogamous Marriage 131 

character of the given marriage, but at the same time to leave 
untouched, even in some respects to emphasize, its super-individ- 
uality, which is the core of its sociological form. At first glance, 
it may appear as if the great number of marriage forms found 
in half-cultures and past high-cultures (some of them based on 
the choice by the parties to the contract, some on their specific 
social positions), reflected an individualization that is at the 
service of the individual marriage. Actually, the reverse is true. 
Each of these types is profoundly un-individual and socially 
pre-determined; and being more minutely articulated, it is 
much narrower and tighter than is a very general and pervasive 
marriage form, whose more abstract character is bound to leave 
greater play to personal differentiation. 

Here we encounter a very general sociological uniformity. If 
the general is socially defined; if, that is, all relevant situations 
are stamped by a pervasive social form, a much greater freedom 
of individual behavior and creativity prevails than is true when 
social norms are crystallized in a variety of specific forms, while 
seemingly paying attention to individual conditions and needs. 
In the latter case, there is much more interference with what is 
properly individual: the freedom of differentiation is greater 
when the lack ot freedom concerns very general and pervasive 
features.® The uniform character of the modern marriage form 
thus certainly leaves more room for individual articulations 
than do a larger number of socially pre-determined forms. On 
the other hand, it is true that its generality, which suffers no ex- 
ception, greatly increases the character of objectivity and au- 
tonomous validity that it has in comparison with individual 
modifications in which we are interested here.^® 

9 These correlations are treated in detail in the last chapter. [“The Enlarge- 
ment of the Group and the Development of Individuality”; not contained in this 

10 The peculiar combination of subjective and objective, personal and super- 
personal or general elements in marriage is involved in the very process that forms 
its basis — physiological pairing. It alone is common to all historically known forms 
of marriage, while perhaps no other characteristic can be found without excep- 
tions. On the one hand, sexual intercourse is the most intimate and personal 
process, but on the other hand, it is absolutely general, absorbing the very per- 
sonality in the service of the species and in the universal organic claim of nature. 
The psychological secret of this act lies in its double character of being both wholly 
personal and wholly impersonal. It explains why it is precisely this act that could 
become the basis of the marital relation which, at a higher sociological stage, re- 

132 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

Something sociologically similar can be seen in the dyad of 
business partners. Although the formation and operation of the 
business rests, exclusively perhaps, on the cooperation of these 
two personalities, nevertheless the subject matter of the coopera- 
tion, the business or firm, is an objective structure. Each of the 
two has rights and duties toward it that in many respects are not 
different from those of any third party. And yet this fact here has 
another sociological significance than in the case of marriage. 
Because of the objective character of the economic system, busi- 
ness is intrinsically separate from the person of the owner, 
whether he be one or two, or more persons. The interaction 
among the participants has its purpose outside itself, while in 
marriage it has it within it. In business, the relationship serves 
as the means for obtaining certain objective results; in marriage, 
all objective elements are really nothing but means for the sub- 
jective relation. It is all the more remarkable that the psychologi- 
cal objectivity and autonomy of the group structure, which is not 
so essential to other dyads, does exist in marriage, along with 
immediate subjectivity. 

peats the same duality. But it is in the very relation between marriage and sex 
behavior that we find a most peculiar formal complication. For, however impossible 
it is to give a positive definition of marriage in view of the historical heterogeneity 
of marriage types, it can certainly be said which relation between man and woman 
is not marriage — the purely sexual relation. Whatever marriage is, it is always 
and everywhere more than sexual intercourse. However divergent the directions 
may be in which marriage transcends sexual intercourse, the fact that it transcends 
it at all makes marriage what it is. Here is, sociologically speaking, an almost 
unique phenomenon: the very point that all marriage forms have in common is the 
one which they have to transcend in order to result in marriage. Elsewhere there 
seem to be only very distant analogies. Thus all artists, no matter how heterogene- 
ous their stylistic and imaginative tendencies may be, must know natural phenom- 
ena very minutely, not in order to stay within them, but in order to fulfill their 
specific artistic task by going beyond them. In a similar way, all historical and indi- 
vidual variations of gastronomic culture must satisfy relevant physiological needs, 
but again not to stop there, but to transcend this merely general need satisfaction 
by means of the most diverse stimuli. But among sociological formations, marriage 
seems to be the only one, or at least the purest, of this type. Here all cases of a 
given social form really contain only one common element; but this element is not 
sufficient to realize the form. This form emerges, rather, only when something else, 
something inevitably individual, which is different from case to case, is added to 
the general. 

Delegation Responsibilities to the Group 133 

§ 8 . Delegation of Duties and Responsibilities 
to the Group 

Yet there is one constellation of very great sociological im- 
portance which is absent in all dyads, while, in principle at 
least, it characterizes all larger groups: the delegation of duties 
and responsibilities to the impersonal group structure. In fact, 
this delegation frequently, though unfavorably, characterizes 
social life in general. It may occur in two directions. Any col- 
lectivity which is more than a mere aggregation of certain indi- 
viduals has indefinite boundaries and powers. This indefinite- 
ness easily tempts one to expect from it all kinds of performances 
which really are the business of the individual members. They 
are turned over to society. With the same psychological tendency 
we very often turn them over to our own future, whose nebulous 
possibilities have room for everything or, as if by spontaneously 
growing forces, take care of everything which at the moment we 
do not like to take on ourselves. In these cases, the transparent, 
but for this very reason clearly limited, power of the individual 
is always distinguished from the somewhat mystical power of 
the collectivity. One therefore easily expects of the collectivity 
not only what one cannot achieve, but also what one does not 
care to achieve — and this with the feeling of the perfect legiti- 
macy of the transfer. One of the best students of the United 
States explains many imperfections and obstacles of the Ameri- 
can state machinery in terms of the belief in the power of public 
opinion. The individual, he tells us, is confident that the col- 
lectivity will after all find and do what is right, and thus he easily 
loses his initiative in matters of public interest. And this may 
result in the positive phenomenon which the same author de- 
scribes as follows: ‘‘The longer public opinion has ruled, the 
more absolute is the authority of the majority likely to become, 
the less likely are energetic minorities to arise, the more are 
politicians likely to occupy themselves, not in forming opinion, 
but in discovering and hastening to obey it.'* 

But group membership is, for the individual, quite as dan- 
gerous in terms of omission as of commission. Here the reference 
is not only to heightened impulsiveness and elimination of 
moral restraint which are shown by the individual in a crowd 

134 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

and which lead to mass crimes where even legal responsibility 
becomes a matter of dispute. In addition, the group interest 
(true or ostensible) entitles, or even obliges, the individual to 
commit acts for which, as an individual, he does not care to be 
responsible. Economic groups make shamelessly egoistical de- 
mands, officialdoms admit of crying abuses, both political and 
scientific associations practice outrageous acts of suppressing 
individual rights. If the individual had to answer for all these 
acts personally, he would find them impossible — at the very 
least, they would make him blush. But as a group member, he is 
anonymous. He feels himself protected if not concealed (so to 
speak) by the group, whose interests, at least formally, he believes 
himself to represent. He therefore commits these acts with the 
best of conscience. There are few cases in which the distance 
between the social unit and its elements is as great as it is here, 
where this distance is obvious and effective to a degree that almost 
degenerates into caricature. 

This lowering of the practical personality values often en- 
tailed by group membership, had to be indicated because its 
absence characterizes the dyad. Since in this case each element has 
only one other individual, rather than more, who might form 
a higher unit with him, the dependence of the whole on him is 
perfectly clear, and thus his co-responsibility for all collective 
actions. He can, of course (and it happens often enough), pass 
responsibilities on to his partner. But this partner can reject 
them much more immediately and decisively than it is fre- 
quently possible for an anonymous whole: the whole lacks energy 
derived from personal interest, or requisite and legitimate repre- 
sentation. Neither of the two members can hide what he has 
done behind the group, nor hold the group responsible for what 
he has failed to do. Here the forces with which the group sur- 
passes the individual — indefinitely and partially, to be sure, but 
yet quite perceptibly — cannot compensate for individual inade- 
quacies, as they can in larger groups. There are many respects 
in which two united individuals accomplish more than two 
isolated individuals. Nevertheless, the decisive characteristic of 
the dyad is that each of the two must actually accomplish some- 
thing, and that in case of failure only the other remains — not 
a super-individual force, as prevails in a group even of three. 

The Expansion of the Dyad 135 

The significance of this characteristic, however, is by no means 
only negative (referring, that is, to what it excludes). On the con- 
trary, it also makes for a close and highly specific coloration of 
the dyadic relationship. Precisely the fact that each of the two 
knows that he can depend only upon the other and on nobody 
else, gives the dyad a special consecration — as is seen in marriage 
and friendship, but also in more external associations, including 
political ones, that consist of two groups. In respect to its socio- 
logical destiny and in regard to any other destiny that depends 
on it, the dyadic element is much more frequently confronted 
with All or Nothing than is the member of the larger group. 

§ 9 . The Expansion of the Dyad 


This peculiar closeness between two is most clearly revealed 
if the dyad is contrasted with the triad. For among three ele- 
ments, each one operates as an intermediary between the other 
two, exhibiting the twofold function of such an organ, which 
is to unite and to separate. Where three elements. A, B, C, con- 
stitute a group, there is, in addition to the direct relationship 
between A and for instance, their indirect one, which is de- 
rived from their common relation to C. The fact that two ele- 
ments are each connected not only by a straight line — the short- 
est — but also by a broken line, as it were, is an enrichment from 
a formal-sociological standpoint. Points that cannot be contacted 
by the straight line are connected by the third element, which 
offers a different side to each of the other two, and yet fuses these 
different sides in the unity of its own personality. Discords be- 
tween two parties which they themselves cannot remedy, are 
accommodated by the third or by absorption in a comprehensive 

Yet the indirect relation does not only strengthen the direct 
one. It may also disturb it. No matter how close a triad may be, 
there is always the occasion on which two of the three members 
regard the third as an intruder. The reason may be the mere 
fact that he shares in certain moods which can unfold in all their 

11 Again not SimmeTs term, but again more convenient than "'Verbindung zu 
dreien*' (association of three) and the like. — ^Tr. 

136 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

intensity and tenderness only when two can meet without dis- 
traction: the sensitive union of two is always irritated by the 
spectator. It may also be noted how extraordinarily difficult and 
rare it is for three people to attain a really uniform mood — ^when 
visiting a museum, for instance, or looking at a landscape — and 
how much more easily such a mood emerges between two. A 
and B may stress and harmoniously feel their m, because the n 
which A does not share with B, and the x which B does not share 
with A, are at once spontaneously conceded to be individual 
prerogatives located, as it were, on another plane. If, however, C 
joins the company, who shares n with A and x with B, the result 
is that (even under this scheme, which is the one most favorable 
to the unity of the whole) harmony of feeling is made completely 
impossible. Two may actually be one party, or may stand entirely 
beyond any question of party. But it is usual for just such finely 
tuned combinations of three at once to result in three parties of 
two persons each, and thus to destroy the unequivocal character 
of the relations between each two of them. 

The sociological structure of the dyad is characterized by 
two phenomena that are absent from it. One is the intensification 
of relation by a third element, or by a social framework that 
transcends both members of the dyad. The other is any disturb- 
ance and distraction of pure and immediate reciprocity. In some 
cases it is precisely this absence which makes the dyadic relation- 
ship more intensive and strong. For, many otherwise undevel- 
oped, unifying forces that derive from more remote psychical 
reservoirs come to life in the feeling of exclusive dependence 
upon one another and of hopelessness that cohesion might 
come from anywhere but immediate interaction. Likewise, they 
carefully avoid many disturbances and dangers into which confi- 
dence in a third party and in the triad itself might lead the two. 
This intimacy, which is the tendency of relations between two 
persons, is the reason why the 4yad constitutes the chief seat of 

The Expansion of the Dyad 137 


Dyads, wholes composed of only two participants, presuppose 
a greater individualization of their members than larger groups 
do (other things being equal). This observation is merely an- 
other aspect of the same fundamental sociological constellation. 
The essential point is that within a dyad, there can be no ma- 
jority which could outvote the individual. This majority, how- 
ever, is made possible by the mere addition of a third member. 
But relations which permit the individual to be overruled by 
a majority devalue individuality. What is more, if the relations 
in question are of a voluntary character, persons of a very de- 
cided individuality do not care to enter them. 

At this juncture, it is important to distinguish a decided 
individuality from a strong individuality, two concepts that are 
very often confused. Certain extremely individualized persons 
and collectivities do not have the strength to preserve their 
individualization in the face of suppressive or leveling forces. 
The strong personality, on the other hand, usually intensifies 
its formation precisely through opposition, through the fight 
for its particular .character and against all temptation to blend 
and intermix. The decided, merely qualitative individuality 
avoids groups in which it might find itself confronted by a 
majority. It is rather pre-destined, almost, for dyadic relation- 
ships, because its differentiation and its vulnerability make it 
dependent on supplementation by another personality. The 
first type — the more intensive individuality — prefers, on the 
other hand, to confront a plurality against whose quantitative 
superiority it can test its own, dynamic superiority. This prefer- 
ence is justified even for almost technical reasons: Napoleon's 
Consulate of Three was decidedly more convenient for him 
than a group of two, for he had to win over only one colleague 
(which is very easy for the strongest among three) in order to 
dominate, in a perfectly legal form, the other, that is, actually, 
both other colleagues. 

In general, it may be said that the dyad does two things in 
comparison with groups of more members. On the one hand, it 
favors a relatively greater individuality of the members. On the 

138 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

other hand, it presupposes that the group form does not lower 
individual particularity to an average level. Now, women are 
the less individualized sex; variation of individual women from 
the general class type is less great than is true, in general, of 
men. This explains the very widespread opinion that, ordinarily, 
women are less susceptible to friendship than men. For, friend- 
ship is a relation entirely based on the individualities of its 
elements, more so perhaps even than marriage: because of its 
traditional forms, its social rules, its real interests, marriage 
contains many super-individual elements that are independent 
of the specific characters of the personalities involved. The funda- 
mental differentiation on which marriage is based, as over 
against friendship, is in itself not an individual, but a species, 
differentiation. It is therefore understandable that real and 
lasting friendships are rare at the stage of low personality de- 
velopment; and that, on the other hand, the modern, highly 
differentiated woman shows a strikingly increased capacity for 
friendship and an inclination toward it, both with men and 
with women. Individual differentiation here has overwhelmed 
species differentiation. We thus see. a correlation emerge be- 
tween the most pointed individualization and a relationship 
which, at this stage at least, is absolutely limited to the dyad. 
This, of course, does not preclude the possibility that the same 
person can, at the same time, be engaged in more than one rela- 
tion of friendship. 


Dyads thus have very specific features. This is shown not 
only by the fact that the addition of a third person completely 
changes them, but also, and even more so, by the common ob- 
servation that the further expansion to four or more by no means 
correspondingly modifies the group any further. For instance, 
a marriage with one child has a character which is completely 
different from that of a childless marriage, but it is not sig- 
nificantly different from a marriage with two or more children. 
To be sure, the difference resulting from the advent of the 
second child is again much more considerable than is that which 
results from the third. But this really follows from the norm 

The Expansion of the Dyad 139 

mentioned: in many respects, the marriage with one child is a 
relation consisting of two elements — on the one hand, the 
parental unit, and on the other, the child. The second child 
is not only a fourth member of a relation but, sociologically 
speaking, also a third, with the peculiar effects of the third 
member. For, as soon as infancy has passed, it is much more 
often the parents who form a functional unit within the family 
than it is the totality of the children. 

In an analogous way, in regard to marriage forms, the de- 
cisive difference is between monogamy and bigamy, whereas 
the third or twentieth wife is relatively unimportant for the 
marriage structure. The transition to a second wife is more 
consequential, at least in one sense, than is that to an even 
larger number. For it is precisely the duality of wives that can 
give rise to the sharpest conflicts and deepest disturbances in 
the husband’s life, while they do not arise in the case of a 
greater plurality. The reason is that a larger number than two 
entails a de-classing and de-individualizing of the wives, a de- 
cisive reduction of the relationship to its sensuous basis (since 
a more intellectual relationship also is always more individ- 
ualized). In general, therefore, the husband’s deeper disturb- 
ances that characteristically and exclusively flow from a double 
relationship cannot come up. 

This same fundamental idea can also be seen in Voltaire’s 
statement about the political usefulness of religious anarchy. 
It says that, within a state, two rivaling sects inevitably produce 
unrests and difficulties which can never result from two hun- 
dred. The significance that the dualism of one element has in 
a group of several members is, of course, no less specific and 
decisive when this group serves the maintenance, rather than 
the disturbance, of the total collectivity of which it is a part. 
Thus it has been suggested that the collegiate relationship of 
the two Roman Consuls was perhaps a more effective obstacle 
to monarchical aspirations than the Athenian system of nine 
highest officials. It is the same dualistic tension which works 
now in a conservative, now in a destructive manner, depending 
on the other circumstances that characterize the total group. 
The decisive point is that this total group completely changes 
its sociological character as soon as the function in question 

140 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

is exerted, rather than by two, either by one person or by more 
than two. Important colleges are often composed of two mem- 
bers, like the Roman Consuls: there are the two kings of the 
Spartans, whose continuous frictions are explicitly stressed as 
assuring the continuation of the state; the two highest war chiefs 
of the Iroquois; the two civic heads of medieval Augsburg, 
where the aspiration toward a single mayoralty stood under a 
severe penalty. The peculiar tensions between the dualistic ele- 
ments of a larger structure guarantee the status quo function 
of the dyad: in the examples given, the fusion into unity could 
easily have resulted in the predominance of an individual, and 
the expansion into a plurality, in an oligarchical clique. 

This discussion has already shown the general significance 
of dualism and the comparable insignificance of its numerical 
increase. In concluding this analysis, I will mention two par- 
ticular but sociologically highly significant facts. France’s polit- 
ical position in Europe was at once changed profoundly as soon 
as the country entered into a closer relationship with Russia. 
A third or fourth ally would not have produced any significant 
modification once this decisive modification had occurred. In 
general, the contents of human life differ very considerably 
according to whether the first step is the most difficult and de- 
cisive step and all later ones are of a comparatively secondary 
importance, or whether the first step itself proves nothing, while 
only later and more outspoken steps realize the turn of events 
that was merely foreshadowed in the beginning. The numerical 
aspects of sociation provide numerous illustrations of either 
case, as will become increasingly clear later on. For a state 
whose isolation entails the loss of political prestige, the existence 
of any one alliance whatever is decisive. By contrast, certain 
economic or military advantages perhaps develop only in a num- 
ber of alliances of which none may be absent if their success 
is to be guaranteed. Obviously, between these two types there 
is the intermediate one wherein the particular character and 
success of the relationship is directly correlated with the number 
of elements, as is usually true in the aggregation of large masses. 
The second type is suggested by the experience that relations 
of command and assistance radically change their character if, 
instead of one servant, assistant, or other subordinate, there are 

The Expansion of the Dyad 141 

two. Aside from the question of cost, housewives sometimes 
prefer to get along with one servant because of the special diffi- 
culties that are involved if there are several. Because of a natural 
need for attachment, one servant tries to approach and enter 
the employer’s personal sphere and interest. But the same need 
for attachment may lead him to take a stand against the em- 
ployer by joining a second servant, for each of the two has support 
in the other. Feelings of specific social status, with their latent 
or more conscious opposition against the master, become effec- 
tive only where there are two servants, because they emerge as 
a feature which they have in common. 

In short, the sociological situation between the superordi- 
nate and the subordinate is completely changed as soon as a 
third element is added. Party formation is suggested instead 
of solidarity; that which separates servant and master is stressed 
instead of what binds them, because now common features are 
sought in the comrade and, of course, are found in their common 
contrast to the superordinate of them both. But this transforma- 
tion of a numerical into a qualitative difference is no less funda- 
mental if viewed from the master’s standpoint. It is easier to 
keep two rather than one at a desired distance; in their jealousy 
and competition the master has a tool for keeping them down 
and making them obedient, while there is no equivalent tool 
in the case of one servant. This is expressed, in formally the same 
sense, in an old proverb: *‘He who has one child is his slave; 
he who has more is their master.” It is seen in all these cases 
that the triad is a structure completely different from the dyad 
but not, on the other hand, specifically distinguished from 
groups of four or more members. 

Before discussing particular types of triads, we must em- 
phasize the variety of group characteristics that results from 
the subdivision of the group into two or into three chief parties. 
Periods of excitement generally place the whole of public life 
under the slogan, “Who is not for me is against me.” The conse- 
quence of this is a division of elements into two parties. All 
interests, convictions, and impulses which put us into a positive 
or negative relation with others at all, are distinguished from 
one another by the question of how aptly this alternative applies 
to them. They may be arranged along a continuum. At the one 

142 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

pole is the radical exclusion of all mediation and impartiality; 
at the other, tolerance of the opponent's standpoint as legitimate 
as one's own. Between these extremes lies a whole range of stand- 
points that concur more or less with one’s own position. A point 
on the continuum is occupied by every decision concerning 
immediate or remote groups that we have contact with; by every 
decision defining our positions within these groups; by every 
decision involving intimate or superficial cooperation, benevo- 
lence, or toleration, our increased prestige, or a danger to us. 
Every decision traces an ideal line around us. This line may 
definitely include or exclude everybody else; or it may have 
gaps where the question of inclusion and exclusion does not 
even arise; or it may permit mere contact, or only a partial in- 
clusion and a partial exclusion. Whether the question of for- 
or-against-me is raised, and if so how emphatically, is determined 
not only by the logical rigor of the content of this question, nor 
only by the passion with which this content is insisted upon, 
but also by my relation to my social circle. The closer and more 
solidary this relation is; the more difficult it is for the individual 
to live with others that are not in complete harmony with him; 
and the more some ideal claim unites their totality, the more 
uncompromising is the question for each of them. The radicalism 
with which Jesus formulated this very decision derives from 
an infinitely strong feeling of the fundamental unity among 
all those who had received his message. In regard to it, there 
can be not only acceptance or rejection but what is more, only 
acceptance or outright fight against it. This fact is the strongest 
expression of the unconditional unity of all who belong to Jesus 
and of the unconditional exclusion of all who do not. For, the 
fight against the message, the being-against-me, is still an im- 
portant relation, an inner, though perverted, unity; and this is 
stronger than any indifferent standing-by or half-hearted fence 


Thus, this fundamental sociological feeling leads to a split 
of the whole complex of elements into two parties. On the other 
hand, however, there are cases that show no such passionate 

The Expansion of the Dyad 14S 

feeling which forces everybody into a positive relation, of ac- 
ceptance or fight, to the new idea or challenge. In these cases, 
every group that is part of the whole is rather essentially con- 
tent with its existence as a part-group, and does not seriously 
request inclusion into the totality. If this is the situation, there 
is opportunity for a plurality of party formations, for tolerance, 
for mediating parties, for a whole range of subtly graded modi- 
fications. Epochs in which large masses are in movement facili- 
tate party dualism, exclude indifference, and reduce the influ- 
ence of middle parties. This fact becomes understandable on the 
basis of the radicalism which appeared to us as the character 
of mass movements. The simplicity of the ideas by which these 
movements are guided, imposes the alternative between absolute 
‘"yes” and “no.” 

The radicalism of mass movements does not prevent, how- 
ever, a complete shift from one extreme to the other. In fact, 
it is not difficult to understand that such a shift occurs, and 
for relatively slight reasons. Suppose a stimulus X correspond- 
ing to the mood a is exerted upon a mass of people who are 
present in the same place. In this mass there is a number of 
individuals, perhaps one only, whose temperament and natural 
passion tend toward a. This individual is vividly stimulated by 
X, which reinforces his own leanings. Understandably enough, 
this person takes leadership in the mass, which is in some measure 
already disposed toward and which follows the mood of the 
leader whose temperament exaggerates the stimulus. By con- 
trast, the individuals whose natures predispose them toward 
the opposite of keep quiet in the face of X. If now there 
appears a Y which justifies the adherents of a must be silent, 
and the movement repeats, with the same exaggeration, in the 
direction of b. This exaggeration derives from two facts. One 
is that in every mass there are individuals whose temper leans 
toward the extreme development of whatever mood is stimulated. 
The other is that these individuals, because at the moment 

12 Throughout history, democratic tendencies, insofar as they direct the great 
mass movements, tend toward simple measures, laws, and principles. All complex 
practices that reject many-sided concerns and pay attention to heterogeneous 
standpoints, are antipathetic to democracy. Aristocracy, inversely, usually abhors 
general and coercive principles and tries to do justice to the peculiarities of indi- 
vidual elements, personal, local, and objective. 

144 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad 

they are strongest and most emphatic, pull the mass in the direc- 
tion of their own mood, whereas the individuals who are dis- 
posed in the opposite direction remain passive, because the 
trend of the moment gives them and the whole no opportunity 
toward their own direction. To put the matter in axiomatic 
form: it is the contentually variable, formal radicalism of the 
mass which is the reason why no middle line results from the 
members of the mass with their dispositions toward diflEerent 
directions. It is the reason why, on the contrary, the momentary 
predominance of one direction usually silences, at once and 
completely, the representatives of all others, instead of allowing 
them to co'determine the mass action in proportion to their 
relative strengths. 

This also explains why once a given direction has been 
formulated, there is no obstacle in the way of its reaching its 
extreme. In the face of fundamental practical problems, there 
are as a rule only two simple positions, however many mixed 
and mediating ones there may be. In a similar way, every lively 
movement within a group — from the family through the whole 
variety of organizations based on common interests, including 
political groups — generally results in the differentiation into 
a clear-cut dualism. If the rate of speed at which interests de- 
velop and general stages of development follow one another is 
great, we always find that decisions and differentiations are 
more definitive than they are in slower periods: mediation re- 
quires time and leisure. In quiet and stagnant epochs, vital 
questions are not stirred up but remain concealed under the 
regular interests of the day. Such epochs easily lead to imper- 
ceptible transitions and allow an indifferentism of the individual 
which a more vivid current would force into the opposition 
between the chief parties. The typical difference in sociological 
constellation, thus, always remains that of two, as over against 
three, chief parties. A number of parties can share in different 
degrees in the function of the third, which is to mediate between 
two extremes. The existence of these degrees is, as it were, only 
an expansion or refinement in the technical execution of the 
principle of mediation; the principle itself changes the configura- 
tion radically, and always emerges and operates when a third 
party is added. 

Chapter 4 

The Triad 

§ 1 . The Sociological Significance of the 
Third Element 


cates to a great extent the role of the third element, as well 
as the configurations that operate among three social elements. 
The dyad represents both the first social synthesis and unifica- 
tion, and the first separation and antithesis. The appearance of 
the third party indicates transition, conciliation, and abandon- 
ment of absolute contrast (although, on occasion, it introduces 
contrast). The triad as such seems to me to result in three kinds 
of typical group formations. All of them are impossible if there 
are only two elements; and, on the other hand, if there are more 
than three, they are either equally impossible or only expand 
in quantity but do not change their formal type. 

§ 2 . The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 

It is sociologically very significant that isolated elements are 
unified by their common relation to a phenomenon which lies 
outside of them. This applies as much to the alliance between 
states for the purpose of defense against a common enemy as to 
the “invisible church” which unifies all faithful in their equal 
relation to the one God. The group-forming, mediating function 
of a third element will be discussed in a later context. In the 
cases under examination now, the third element is at such a 
distance from the other two that there exist no properly socio- 
logical interactions which concern all three elements alike. 
Rather, there are configurations of two. In the center of socio- 
logical attention, there is either the relation between the two 


146 The Triad 

joining elements, the relation between them as a unit and the 
center of interest that confronts them. At the moment, however, 
we are concerned with three elements which are so closely related 
or so closely approach one another that they form a group, 
permanent or momentary. 

In the most significant of all dyads, monogamous marriage, 
the child or children, as the third element, often has the func- 
tion of holding the whole together. Among many ‘‘nature 
peoples,*' only childbirth makes marriage perfect or insoluble. 
And certainly one of the reasons why developing culture makes 
marriages deeper and closer is that children become independent 
relatively late and therefore need longer care. Perfection of 
marriage through childbirth rests, of course, on the value which 
the child has for the husband, and on his inclination, sanctioned 
by law and custom, to expel a childless wife. But the actual 
result of the third element, the child, is that it alone really closes 
the circle by tying the parents to one another. This can occur 
in two forms. The existence of the third element may directly 
start or strengthen the union of the two, as for instance, when 
the birth of a child increases the spouses’ mutual love, or at 
least the husband’s for his wife. Or the relation of each of the 
spouses to the child may produce a new and indirect bond be- 
tween them. In general, the common preoccupations of a mar- 
ried couple with the child reveal that their union passes through 
the child, as it were; the union often consists of sympathies which 
could not exist without such a point of mediation. This emer- 
gence of the inner socialization of three elements, which the 
two elements by themselves do not desire, is the reason for a 
phenomenon mentioned earlier, namely, the tendency of un- 
happily married couples not to wish children. They instinctively 
feel that the child would close a circle within which they would 
be nearer one another, not only externally but also in their 
deeper psychological layers, than they are inclined to be. 

When the third element functions as a non-partisan, we 
have a different variety of mediation. The non-partisan either 
produces the concord of two colliding parties, whereby he with- 
draws after making the effort of creating direct contact between 
the unconnected or quarreling elements; or he functions as an 
arbiter who balances, as it were, their contradictory claims 

The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 147 

against one another and eliminates what is incompatible in 
them. Differences between labor and management, especially 
in England, have developed both forms of unification. There 
are boards of conciliation where the parties negotiate their con- 
flicts under the presidency of a non-partisan. The mediator, of 
course, can achieve reconciliation in this form only if each party 
believes that the proportion between the reasons for the hos- 
tility, in short, the objective situation justifies the reconciliation 
and makes peace advantageous. The very great opportunity that 
non-partisan mediation has to produce this belief lies not only 
in the obvious elimination of misunderstandings or in appeals 
to good will, etc. It may also be analyzed as follows. The non- 
partisan shows each party the claims and arguments of the other; 
they thus lose the tone of subjective passion which usually 
provokes the same tone on the part of the adversary. What is 
so often regrettable here appears as something wholesome, 
namely, that the feeling which accompanies a psychological con- 
tent when one individual has it, usually weakens greatly when 
it is transferred to a second. This fact explains why recommen- 
dations and testimonies that have to pass several mediating 
persons before reaching the deciding individual, are so often 
ineffective, even jf their objective content arrives at its destina- 
tion without any change. In the course of these transfers, affec- 
tive imponderables get lost; and these not only supplement 
insufficient objective qualifications, but, in practice, they alone 
cause sufficient ones to be acted upon. 

Here we have a phenomenon which is very significant for 
the development of purely psychological influences. A third 
mediating social element deprives conflicting claims of their 
affective qualities because it neutrally formulates and presents 
these claims to the two parties involved. Thus this circle that 
is fatal to all reconciliation is avoided: the vehemence of the 
one no longer provokes that of the other, which in turn inten- 
sifies that of the first, and so forth, until the whole relationship 
breaks down. Furthermore, because of the non-partisan, each 
party to the conflict not only listens to more objective matters 
but is also forced to put the issue in more objective terms than 
it would if it confronted the other without mediation. For now 
it is important for each to win over even the mediator. This, 

148 The Triad 

however, can be hoped for only on purely objective grounds, 
because the mediator is not the arbitrator, but only guides the 
process of coming to terms; because, in other words, he must 
always keep out of any decision — whereas the arbitrator ends 
up by taking sides. Within the realm of sociological techniques, 
there is nothing that serves the reconciliation of conflicting 
parties so effectively as does objectivity, that is, the attempt at 
limiting all complaints and requests to their objective contents. 
Philosophically speaking, the conflict is reduced to the objective 
spirit of each partial standpoint, so that the personalities in- 
volved appear as the mere vehicles of objective conditions. In 
case of conflict, the personal form in which objective contents 
become subjectively alive must pay for its warmth, color, and 
depth of feeling with the sharpness of the antagonism that it 
engenders. The diminution of this personal tone is the con- 
dition under which the understanding and reconciliation of the 
adversaries can be attained, particularly because it is only under 
this condition that each of the two parties actually realizes what 
the other must insist upon. To put it psychologically, antag- 
onism of the will is reduced to intellectual antagonism. Reason 
is everywhere the principle of understanding; on its basis can 
come together what on that of feeling and ultimate decision 
of the will is irreconcilably in conflict. It is the function of the 
mediator to bring this reduction about, to represent it, as it were, 
in himself; or to form a transformation point where, no matter 
in what form the conflict enters from one side, it is transmitted 
to the other only in an objective form; a point where all is re- 
tained which would merely intensify the conflict in the absence 
of mediation. 

It is important for the analysis of social life to realize clearly 
that the constellation thus characterized constantly emerges in 
all groups of more than two elements. To be sure, the mediator 
may not be specifically chosen, nor be known or designated as 
such. But the triad here serves merely as a type or scheme; ulti- 
mately all cases of mediation can be reduced to this form. From 
the conversation among three persons that lasts only an hour, 
to the permanent family of three, there is no triad in which a 
dissent between any two elements does not occur from time to 
time — a dissent of a more harmless or more pointed, more 

The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 149 

momentary or more lasting, more theoretical or more practical 
nature — and in which the third member does not play a mediat- 
ing role. This happens innumerable times in a very rudimentary 
and inarticulate manner, mixed with other actions and interac- 
tions, from which the purely mediating function cannot be 
isolated. Such mediations do not even have to be performed 
by means of words. A gesture, a way of listening, the mood that 
radiates from a particular person, are enough to change the 
difference between two individuals so that they can seek under- 
standing, are enough to make them feel their essential common- 
ness which is concealed under their acutely differing opinions, 
and to bring this divergence into the shape in which it can be 
ironed out the most easily. The situation does not have to involve 
a real conflict or fight. It is rather the thousand insignificant 
differences of opinion, the allusions to an antagonism of per- 
sonalities, the emergence of quite momentary contrasts of in- 
terest or feeling, which continuously color the fluctuating forms 
of all living together; and this social life is constantly determined 
in its course by the presence of the third person, who almost 
inevitably exercises the function of mediation. This function 
makes the round among the three elements, since the ebb and 
flow of social life realizes the form of conflict in every possible 
combination of two members. 

The non-partisanship that is required for mediation has one 
of two presuppositions. The third element is non-partisan either 
if he stands above the contrasting interests and opinions and is 
actually not concerned with them, or if he is equally concerned 
with both. The first case is the simpler of the two and involves 
fewest complications. In conflicts between English laborers and 
entrepreneurs, for instance, the non-partisan called in could be 
neither a laborer nor an entrepreneur. It is notable how de- 
cisively the separation of objective from personal elements in 
the conflict (mentioned earlier) is realized here. The idea is 
that the non-partisan is not attached by personal interest to the 
objective aspects of either party position. Rather, both come to 
be weighed by him as by a pure, impersonal intellect; without 
touching the subjective sphere. But the mediator must be sub- 
jectively interested in the persons or groups themselves who 
exemplify the contents of the quarrel which to him are merely 

150 The Triad 

theoretical, since otherwise he would not take over his function. 
It is, therefore, as if subjective interest set in motion a purely 
objective mechanism. It is the fusion of personal distance from 
the objective significance of the quarrel with personal interest 
in its subjective significance which characterizes the non-partisan 
position. This position is the more perfect, the more distinctly 
each of these two elements is developed and the more har- 
moniously, in its very differentiation, each cooperates with the 

The situation becomes more complicated when the non- 
partisan owes his position, not to his neutrality, but to his equal 
participation in the interests in conflict. This case is frequent 
when a given individual belongs to two different interest groups, 
one local, and the other objective, especially occupational. In 
earlier times, bishops could sometimes intervene between the 
secular ruler of their diocese and the pope. The administrator 
who is thoroughly familiar with the special interests of his dis- 
trict, will be the most suitable mediator in the case of a collision 
between these special interests and the general interests of the 
state which employs him. The measure of the combination be- 
tween impartiality and interest which is favorable to the media- 
tion between two locally separate groups, is often found in 
persons that come from one of these groups but live with the 
other. The difficulty of positions of this kind in which the 
mediator may find himself, usually derives from the fact that 
his equal interests in both parties, that is, his inner equilibrium, 
cannot be definitely ascertained and is, in fact, doubted often 
enough by both parties. 

Yet an even more difficult and, indeed, often tragic situation 
occurs when the third is tied to the two parties, not by specific 
interests, but by his total personality; and this situation is ex- 
treme when the whole matter of the conflict cannot be clearly 
objectified, and its objective aspect is really only a pretext or 
opportunity for deeper personal irreconcilabilities to manifest 
themselves. In such a case, the third, whom love or duty, fate 
or habit have made equally intimate with both, can be crushed 
by the conflict — ^much more so than if he himself took sides. The 
danger is increased because the balance of his interests, which 
does not lean in either direction, usually does not lead to sue- 

The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 151 

cessful mediation, since reduction to a merely objective contrast 
fails. This is the type instanced by a great many family conflicts. 
The mediator, whose equal distance to both conflicting parties 
assures his impartiality, can accommodate both with relative 
ease. But the person who is impartial because he is equally close 
to the two, will find this much more difficult and will personally 
get into the most painful dualism of feelings. Where the me- 
diator is chosen, therefore, the equally uninterested will be pre- 
ferred (other things being equal) to the equally interested. 
Medieval Italian cities, for instance, often obtained their judges 
from the outside in order to be sure that they were not prejudiced 
by inner party frictions. 

This suggests the second form of accommodation by means 
of an impartial third element, namely, arbitration. As long as 
the third properly operates as a mediator, the final termination 
of the conflict lies exclusively in the hands of the parties them- 
selves. But when they choose an arbitrator, they relinquish this 
final decision. They project, as it were, their will to conciliation, 
and this will becomes personified in the arbitrator. He thus 
gains a special impressiveness and power over the antagonistic 
forces. The voluntary appeal to an arbitrator, to whom they 
submit from the beginning, presupposes a greater subjective 
confidence in the objectivity of judgment than does any other 
form of decision. For, even in the state tribunal, it is only the 
action of the complainant that results from confidence in just 
decision, since the complainant considers the decision that is 
favorable to him the just decision. The defendant, on the other 
hand, must enter the suit whether or not he believes in the 
impartiality of the judge. But arbitration results only when 
both parties to the conflict have this belief. This is the principle 
which sharply differentiates mediation from arbitration; and 
the more official the act of conciliation, the more punctiliously 
is this differentiation observed. 

This statement applies to a whole range of conflicts; from 
those between capitalist and worker, which I mentioned earlier, 
to those of great politics, where the “good services” of a govern- 
ment in adjusting a conflict between two others are quite dif- 
ferent from the arbitration occasionally requested of it. The 
trivialities of daily life, where the typical triad constantly places 

152 The Triad 

one into a clear or latent, full or partial difference from two 
others, offer many intermediary grades between these two forms. 
In the inexhaustibly varying relations, the parties' appeal to the 
third person, to his voluntarily or even forcibly seized initiative 
to conciliate, often gives him a position whose mediating and 
arbitrating elements it is impossible to separate. If one wants 
to understand the real web of human society with its indescrib- 
able dynamics and fullness, the most important thing is to 
sharpen one’s eyes for such beginnings and transitions, for forms 
of relationship which are merely hinted at and are again sub- 
merged, for their embryonic and fragmentary articulations. 
Illustrations which exemplify in its purity any one of the con- 
cepts denoting these forms, certainly are indispensable sociolog- 
ical tools. But their relation to actual social life is like that of the 
approximately exact space forms, that are used to illustrate 
geometrical propositions, to the immeasurable complexity of 
the actual formations of matter. 

After all that has been said, it is clear that from an over-all 
viewpoint, the existence of the impartial third element serves 
the perpetuation of the group. As the representative of the 
intellect, he confronts the two conflicting parties, which for the 
moment are guided more by will and feeling. He thus, so to 
speak, complements them in the production of that psychological 
unity which resides in group life. On the one hand, the non- 
partisan tempers the passion of the others. On the other hand, 
he can carry and direct the very movement of the whole group 
if the antagonism of the other two tends to paralyze their forces. 
Nevertheless, this success can change into its opposite. We thus 
understand why the most intellectually disposed elements of a 
group lean particularly toward impartiality: the cool intellect 
usually finds lights and shadows in either quarter; its objective 
justice does not easily side unconditionally with either. This is 
the reason why sometimes the most intelligent individuals do 
not have much influence on the decisions in conflicts, although 
it would be very desirable that such decisions come from them. 
Once the group has to choose between “yes” and “no,” they, 
above all others, ought to throw their weight into the balance, for 
then the scale will be the more likely to sink in favor of the right 
side. If, therefore, impartiality does not serve practical media- 

The Non-Partisan and the Mediator 153 

tion directly, in its combination with intellectuality it makes 
sure that the decision is not left to the more stupid, or at least 
more prejudiced, group forces. And in fact, ever since Solon, 
we often find disapproval of impartial behavior. In the social 
sense, this disapproval is something very healthy: it is based on 
a much deeper instinct for the welfare of the whole than on 
mere suspicion of cowardice — ^an attack which is frequently 
launched against impartiality, though often quite unjustifiably. 

Whether impartiality consists in the equal distance or in the 
equal closeness that connects the non-partisan and the two con- 
flicting parties, it is obvious that it may be mixed with a great 
many other relations between him and each of the two others 
and their group as a whole. For instance, if he constitutes a 
group with the other two but is remote from their conflicts, he 
may be drawn into them in the very name of independence from 
the parties which already exist. This may greatly serve the unity 
and equilibrium of the group, although the equilibrium may be 
highly unstable. It was this sociological form in which the third 
estate’s participation in state matters occurred in England. Ever 
since Henry III, state matters were inextricably dependent on 
the cooperation of the great barons who, along with the prelates, 
had to grant the monies; and their combination had power, often 
superior power, over the king. Nevertheless, instead of the fruit- 
ful collaboration between estates and crown, there were 
incessant splits, abuses, power shifts, and clashes. Both parties 
came to feel that these could be ended only by resort to a third 
element which, until then, had been kept out of state matters; 
lower vassals, freemen, counties, and cities. Their representatives 
were invited to councils; and this was the beginning of the 
House of Commons. The third element thus exerted a double 
function. First, it helped to make an actuality of government as 
the image of the state in its comprehensiveness. Secondly, it did 
so as an agency which confronted hitherto existing government 
parties objectively, as it were, and thus contributed to the more 
harmonious employment of their reciprocally exhausted forces 
for the over-all purpose of the state. 

154 The Triad 

§ 3. The Tertius Gaudens 

In the combinations thus far considered, the impartiality of 
the third element either served or harmed the group as a whole. 
Both the mediator and the arbitrator wish to save the group 
unity from the danger of splitting up. But, evidently, the non- 
partisan may also use his relatively superior position for purely 
egoistic interests. While in the cases discussed, he behaved as 
a means to the ends of the group, he may also, inversely, make 
the interaction that takes place between the parties and be- 
tween himself and them, a means for his own purposes. In the 
social life of well consolidated groups, this may happen merely 
as one event among others. But often the relation between the 
parties and the non-partisan emerges as a new relationship: 
elements that have never before formed an interactional unit 
may come into conflict; a third non-partisan element, which 
before was equally unconnected with either, may spontaneously 
seize upon the chances that this quarrel gives him; and thus an 
entirely unstable interaction may result which can have an ani- 
mation and wealth of forms, for each of the elements engaged 
in it, which are out of all proportion to its brief life. 

I will only mention two forms of the tertius gaudens in 
which the interaction within the triad does not emerge very 
distinctly; and here we are interested in its more typical forma- 
tions. In these two, the essential characteristic is rather a certain 
passivity, either of the two engaged in the conflict or of the 
tertius [third element, party, or person]. The advantage of the 
tertius may result from the fact that the remaining two hold 
each other in check, and he can make a gain which one of the 
two would otherwise deny him. The discord here only effectuates 
a paralyzation of forces which, if they only could, would strike 
against him. The situation thus really suspends interaction 
among the three elements, instead of fomenting it, although it 
is certainly, nonetheless, of the most distinct consequences for 
all of them. The case in which this situation is brought about 
on purpose will be discussed in connection with the next type 
of configuration among three elements. Meanwhile, the second 

18 Literally, “the third who enjoys," that is, the third party which in some 
fashion or another draws advantage from the quarrel of two others. — Tr. 

The Tertius Gaudens 155 

form appears when the tertius gains an advantage only because 
action by one of the two conflicting parties brings it about for 
its own purposes — tht tertius does not need to take the initiative. 
A case in point are the benefits and promotions which a party 
bestows upon him, only in order to offend its adversary. Thus, 
the English laws for the protection of labor originally derived, 
in part at least, from the mere rancor of the Tories against liberal 
manufacturers. Various charitable actions that result from com- 
petition for popularity also belong here. Strangely enough, it 
is a particularly petty and mean attitude that befriends a third 
element for the sake of annoying a second: indifference to the 
moral autonomy of altruism cannot appear more sharply than 
in this exploitation of altruism. And it is doubly significant that 
the purpose of annoying one’s adversary can be achieved by 
favoring either one’s friend or one’s enemy. 

The formations that are more essential here emerge when- 
ever the tertius makes his own indirect or direct gain by turning 
toward one of the two conflicting parties — but not intellectually 
and objectively, like the arbitrator, but practically, supporting 
or granting. This general type has two main variants: either two 
parties are hostile toward one another and therefore compete 
for the favor ota third element; or they compete for the favor 
of the third element and therefore are hostile toward one 
another. This difference is important particularly for the fur- 
ther development of the threefold constellation. For where an 
already existing hostility urges each party to seek the favor of 
a third, the outcome of this competition — the fact that the third 
party joins one of the two, rather than the other — marks the 
real beginning of the fight. Inversely, two elements may curry 
favor with a third independently of one another. If so, this very 
fact may be the reason for their hostility, for their becoming 
parties. The eventual granting of the favor is thus the object, 
not the means of the conflict and, therefore, usually ends the 
quarrel. The decision is made, and further hostilities become 
practically pointless. 

In both cases, the advantage of impartiality, which was the 
tertius' original attitude toward the two, consists in his possi- 
bility of making his decision depend on certain conditions. 
Where he is denied this possibility, for whatever reason, he 

156 The Triad 

cannot fully exploit the situation. This applies to one of the 
most common cases of the second type, namely, the competition 
between two persons of the same sex for the favor of one of 
the opposite sex. Here the decision of the third element does 
not depend on his or her will in the same sense as does that of 
a buyer who is confronted with two competing offers, or that 
of a ruler who grants privileges to one of two competing suppli- 
cants. The decision, rather, comes from already existing feelings 
which cannot be determined by any will, and which therefore 
do not even permit the will to be brought into a situation of 
choice. In these cases, therefore, we only exceptionally find 
offers intended to be decided by choice; and, although we 
genuinely have a situation of tertius gaudens, its thorough ex- 
ploitation is, in general, not possible. 

On the largest scale, the tertius gaudens is represented by 
the buying public in an economy with free competition. The 
fight among the producers for the buyer makes the buyer almost 
completely independent of the individual supplier. He is, how- 
ever, completely dependent on their totality; and their coalition 
would, in fact, at once invert the relationship. But as it is, the 
buyer can base his purchase almost wholly on his appraisal of 
quality and price of the merchandise. His position even has the 
added advantage that the producers must try to anticipate the 
conditions described: they must guess the consumer’s unver- 
balized or unconscious wishes, and they must suggest wishes 
that do not exist at all, and train him for them. These situations 
of tertius gaudens may be arranged along a continuum. At the 
one end, perhaps, there is the above-mentioned case of the woman 
between two suitors. Here the decision depends on the two 
men’s natures, rather than on any of their activities. The chooser, 
therefore, usually makes no conditions and thus does not fully 
exploit the situation. At the other end, there is the situation 
which gives the tertius gaudens his extreme advantage. It is 
found in modern market economy with its complete exclusion 
of the personal element: here the advantage of the chooser 
reaches a point where the parties even relieve him of the maxi- 
mum intensification of his own bargaining condition. 

Let us come back to the other formation. In its beginning, 
a dispute is not related whatever to a third element. But then 

The Tertius Gaudens 157 

it forces its parties to compete for help from such a third element. 
Ordinarily an example is provided by the history of every federa- 
tion, whether it be between states or between members of a 
family. The very simple, typical course of the process, however, 
gains a particular sociological interest through the following 
modification. The power the tertius must expend in order to 
attain his advantageous position does not have to be great in 
comparison with the power of each of the two parties, since the 
quantity of his power is determined exclusively by the strength 
which each of them has relative to the other. For evidently, the 
only important thing is that his superadded power give one 
of them superiority. If, therefore, the power quanta are ap- 
proximately equal, a minimum accretion is often sufficient de- 
finitely to decide in one direction. This explains the frequent 
influence of small parliamentary parties: they can never gain 
it through their own significance but only because the great 
parties keep one another in approximate balance. Wherever 
majorities decide, that is, where everything depends on one sin- 
gle vote, as it often does, it is possible for entirely insignificant 
parties to make the severest conditions for their support. Some- 
thing similar may occur in the relations of small to large states 
which find themselves in conflict. What alone is important is 
that the forces of two antagonistic elements paralyze one another 
and thus actually give unlimited power to the intrinsically ex- 
tremely weak position of a third element not yet engaged in the 
issue. Of course, intrinsically strong third elements profit no 
less from such a situation. 

Yet within certain formations, as for instance within a highly 
developed system of political parties, it is more difficult to realize 
this advantage. For it is precisely the great parties that are often 
definitely committed, objectively as well as in their relations 
toward one another. They do not, therefore, have the freedom 
of decision that would give them all the advantages of the tertius 
gaudens. It was only because of very special favorable constella- 
tions that during the last decades the Center Party has escaped 
this limitation in the German parliaments. Its power position is 
very much strengthened by the fact that its principles commit 
it to only a very small portion of the parliamentary decisions; 
in regard to all others, it can freely decide now in one, now in 

158 The Triad 

another direction. It can pronounce for or against protective 
tariffs, for or against legislation favorable to labor, for or against 
military demands, without being handicapped by its party 
program. In all such cases, therefore, it places itself as tertius 
gaudens between the parties, each of which may try to win its 
favor. No Agrarian will seek the assistance of the Social Demo- 
crats in fighting for a wheat tariff, because he knows that their 
party principles oblige them to be against it; and, in his fight 
against the tariff, no Liberal will seek their assistance and pay 
for it, because he knows that their party line makes them agree 
with him, anyway. But both can go to the Center Party whose 
non-commitment on this question enables it to make its own 
price. On the other hand, an already strong element often attains 
the situation of tertius gaudens because it does not have to put 
its whole power into effect. For, the advantages of tertius gaudens 
accrue to it not only from outright fight, but from the mere 
tension and latent antagonism between the other two: the ad- 
vantages derive from the mere possibility of deciding in favor 
of one or the other, even if the matter does not come to an open 

This very situation was characteristic of English politics at 
the beginning of the modern period, after the medieval phase, 
to the extent at least, that England no longer sought immediate 
possessions and dominions on the continent but always had a 
potential power between the continental realms. Already in 
the sixteenth century it was said that France and Spain were 
the scales of the European balance, but England was the “tongue 
or the holder of the balance.’’ The Roman bishops, beginning 
with the whole development up to Leo the Great, elaborated 
this formal principle with great emphasis by forcing conflicting 
parties within the church to give them the role of the decisive 
power. Ever since very early times, bishops in dogmatic or other 
conflict with other bishops have sought the assistance of their 
Roman colleague who, on principle, always took the party of 
the petitioner. Thus, nothing was left for others to do but like- 
wise to turn to the Roman bishop, in order not to antagonize 
him from the start. He came, therefore, to acquire the preroga- 
tive and tradition of a decisive tribunal. Here, what might be 
called the sociological logic of the situation of three, of which 

The Tertius Gaudens 159 

two are in conflict, is developed in great purity and intensity 
in the direction of the tertius gaudens. 

Thus the advantage accruing to the tertius derives from the 
fact that he has an equal, equally independent, and for this 
very reason decisive, relation to two others. The advantage, 
however, does not exclusively depend on the hostility of the 
two. A certain general differentiation, mutual strangeness, or 
qualitative dualism may be sufficient. This, in fact, is the basic 
formula of the type, and the hostility of the elements is merely 
a specific case of it, even if it is the most common. The following 
favorite position of the tertius ^ for instance, is very characteristic, 
and it results from mere dualism. If B is obligated to a particular 
duty toward A, and if he delegates this duty to C and D among 
whom it is to be distributed, then A is greatly tempted to impose 
on each of them, if possible, a little more than half; from both 
together, therefore, he profits more than he would have earlier, 
when the duty was in the hand of only one person. In 1751, the 
government had to issue an explicit decree in regard to the 
breaking up of peasant holdings in Bohemia. The law was to 
the effect that if a holding was divided by the manorial lord, 
each of its parts could not be burdened with more than its por- 
tion, in correspondence with its size, of the socage that adhered 
to the whole. 

More generally, if a duty is turned over to two, the most 
important idea is that each of them now has to do less than the 
one did who formerly had been burdened with it alone: in 
comparison with this notion, the more exact definition of the 
quantum recedes, and can therefore easily be changed. In other 
words, the merely numerical fact of the party's two-ness, instead 
of oneness, here engenders, so to speak, the situation of tertius 
gaudens. In the following case, however, it arises on the basis of 
a duality characterized by qualitative differences. This explains 
the judicial power of the English king, which was unheard of 
for the Germanic Middle Ages. William the Conqueror wished 
to respect the laws of the Anglo-Saxon population as he found 
them. But his Normans, too, brought their native laws with 
them. These two law complexes did not fit one another; they 
did not result in a unitary right of the people as over against 
the king: consistent with his own interest,the king could force 

160 The Triad 

himself between the two laws and thus could practically annul 
them. The discord of these nations resulted (and in similar cases 
results) not only from their actual conflicts but also from their 
actual differences that made a common legal enforcement 
difficult. In this discord lay the support of absolutism; and, for 
this reason, the power of absolutism declined steadily as soon 
as the two nationalities fused into one. 

The favorable position of the tertius disappears quite gen- 
erally the moment the two others become a unit — the moment, 
that is, the group in question changes from a combination of 
three elements back into that of two. It is instructive, not only 
in regard to this particular problem but in regard to group life 
in general, to observe that this result may be brought about 
without any personal conciliation or fusion of interests. The 
object of the antagonism can be withdrawn from the conflict 
of subjective claims by being fixed objectively. This, it seems 
to me, is shown with particular clarity in the following case. 
Modern industry leads to ever new interrelations among the 
most heterogeneous trades. It constantly creates new tasks that 
historically do not belong to any existing trade. It has thus 
brought about, especially in England, frequent conflicts over 
the respective competencies among the different categories of 
labor. In the large enterprises, shipbuilders and carpenters, 
plumbers and blacksmiths, boilermakers and metaldrillers, 
masons and bricklayers are very often in conflict over the ques- 
tion concerning to whom a certain job belongs. Every trade 
stops working as soon as it believes that another trade interferes 
with its own tasks. The insoluble contradiction here consists 
in the presupposition that subjective rights to certain objects 
are specifically delimited, while they are continuously in flux 
in their very nature. Often such conflicts among workmen 
gravely undermine their position toward the entrepreneur. He 
has a moral advantage as soon as his workers strike because of 
their own discords, and thereby do him immeasurable harm. 
Furthermore, he has it in his arbitrary power to subdue any 
trade by threatening to employ another trade for the work 
in question. The economic interest that everyone of them has 
in not losing the job, is based on the fear that the competing 
worker might do it more cheaply and might, thereby, contribute 

The Tertius Gaudens 161 

to lowering the standard wage paid for it. It was therefore pro- 
posed, as the only possible solution, that the trade unions should 
fix the standard wage for every particular work in consultation 
with the federated entrepreneurs, and then leave it up to the 
workers which category of laborers they wanted to employ for 
a job in question. The excluded category thus no longer has 
to fear any harm to its basic economic interest. This objectifica- 
tion of the matter of dispute deprives the entrepreneur of the 
advantage that he gains by lowering the wages and playing up 
the two parties against one another. Although he has retained 
the choice among the different labor groups, he can no longer 
make any profitable use of it. The earlier mixture of personal 
and objective elements has become differentiated. In regard 
to the first, the entrepreneur remains in the formal situation 
of tertius gaudens; but the objective fixation of the second has 
taken from this situation the chance of exploitation. 

Many among the various kinds of conflicts mentioned here 
and in connection with the next form of triad, must have 
operated to produce or increase the power position of the church 
ever since the Middle Ages, when it began to have it among 
secular powers. In view of the incessant unrests and quarrels 
in the political districts, large and small, the church, the only 
stable element, an element already revered or feared by every 
party, must have gained an incomparable prerogative. Many 
times, it is quite generally the mere stability of the tertius in 
the changing stages of the conflict — the fact that the tertius is 
not touched by its contents — ^around which oscillate the ups 
and downs of the two parties; and this gives the stable third 
element its superiority and its possibility of gain. Other things 
being equal, it may be said that the more violently and, espe- 
cially, the longer the positions of the conflicting parties oscillate, 
all the more superior, respected, and of greater opportunity will 
the position of the tertius be rendered by firm endurance, as a 
purely formal fact. There is probably no more gigantic example 
of this widely observed relationship than the Catholic Church 

For the general characterization of the tertius gaudens, which 
applies to all of its particular manifestations alike, a further 
point must be noted. This is, that among the causes of his pre- 

162 The Triad 

rogative, there is the mere difference of psychological energies 
which he invests in the relationship, as compared with the 
others. Earlier, in regard to the non-partisan in general, I men- 
tioned that he represents intellectuality, while the parties in 
conflict represent feeling and will. If the non-partisan is in the 
position of tertius gaudens^ that is, of egoistic exploiter of the 
situation, this intellectuality gives him a dominating place. It is 
enthroned, as it were, at an ideal height. The tertius fully enjoys 
that external advantage which every complication bestows upon 
the party whose feelings are not involved. Certainly, he may 
scorn the practical exploitation of his less biased grasp of the 
conjuncture, of his strength, which is not committed one way 
or another but can always be used for different purposes. But 
even if he does, his situation gives him at least the feeling of a 
slight ironical superiority over the parties which stake so much 
for the sake of what to him is so indifferent. 

§ 4. Divide et Impera 

The previously discussed combinations of three elements 
were characterized by an existing or emerging conflict between 
two, from which the third drew his advantage. One particular 
variety of this combination must now be considered separately, 
although in reality it is not always clearly delimited against other 
types. The distinguishing nuance consists in the fact that the 
third element intentionally produces the conflict in order to 
gain a dominating position. Here too, however, we must preface 
the treatment of this constellation by pointing out that the 
number three is merely the minimum number of elements that 
are necessary for this formation, and that it may thus serve as 
the simplest schema. Its outline is that initially two elements 
are united or mutually dependent in regard to a third, and that 
this third element knows how to put the forces combined against 
him into action against one another. The outcome is that the 
two either keep each other balanced so that he, who is not inter- 
fered with by either, can pursue his advantages; or that they so 
weaken one another that neither of them can stand up against 
his superiority. 

I shall now characterize some steps in the scale on which the 

Divide et Impera 163 

relevant phenomena may be arranged. The simplest case is found 
where a superior prevents the unification of elements which do 
not yet positively strive after unification but might do so. Here, 
above all, belong the legal prohibitions against political organi- 
zations, as well as against leagues of organizations each of which, 
individually, is permitted. Usually there is no specifically defined 
fear or demonstrable danger that such organizations might 
present to the ruling powers. Rather, the form of association 
as such is feared, because there is the possibility that it might 
be combined with a dangerous content. Pliny, in his correspond- 
ence with Trajan, states explicitly that the Christians are dan- 
gerous because they form an association; otherwise they are 
completely harmless. On the one hand, there is the experience 
that revolutionary tendencies, or tendencies that are at all 
directed toward changing what is, must adopt the form of unify- 
ing as many interested parties as possible. But this experience 
changes into the logically false but psychologically well under- 
standable inverse notion according to which all associations have 
tendencies directed against the existing powers. Their prohibi- 
tion thus is founded upon a possibility of the second power, as 
it were. In the first place, the a priori prohibited associations 
are merely possWle and very often do not exist even as wishes 
of the elements separated by the prohibition. In the second 
place, the dangers for the sake of which the prohibition occurred 
would only be possibilities^ even if the associations actually 
existed. In this elimination of anticipated associations, the 
'‘divide and rule,” therefore, appears as the subtlest imaginable 
prophylactic on the part of the one element against all possi- 
bilities that might result from the fusion of the others. 

This preventive form may exist even where the plurality 
that confronts one element consists of the various power com- 
ponents of one identical phenomenon. The Anglo-Norman 
kings saw to it that the manors of the feudal lords were in as 
widely scattered locations as possible; some of the most powerful 
vassals had their seats in from seventeen to twenty-one different 
shires each. Because of this principle of local distribution, the 
dominions of the crown vassals could not consolidate themselves 
into great sovereign courts as they could on the continent. 
Regarding the earlier land distributions among the sons of 

164 The Triad 

rulers, we hear that the individual pieces were parceled out as 
widely as possible in order to preclude their complete separation 
from the ruler. In this manner, the unified state wishes to pre- 
serve its dominion by splitting up all territorial subdivisions: 
if they were contiguous, they could more easily remove them- 
selves from its influence. 

Where there actually exists a desire for unification, the 
prophylactic prevention of the unification has an even more 
pointed effect. A relevant case (which, to be sure, is complicated 
by other motives as well) is the fact that generally, in wage and 
other controversial matters, employers categorically refuse to 
negotiate with intermediary persons who do not belong to their 
own employees. This refusal has two functions. It prevents the 
workers from strengthening their position by associating with 
a personality who has nothing to fear or to hope from the em- 
ployer. In the second place, it is an obstacle to the unified action 
of workers in different trades toward a common goal, for in- 
stance, the general establishment of a uniform wage scale. By 
rejecting the middle person who might negotiate on behalf of 
several workers’ groups alike, the employer precludes the 
threatening unification of the workers. In view of the existing 
tendencies toward such a unification, this refusal is considered 
very important for his position. For this reason, employers’ asso- 
ciations sometimes impose this isolation of the labor force, in 
the case of conflicts and negotiations, as a statutory duty upon 
each of their members. It was an extraordinary progress in the 
history of English trade unions, especially in the third quarter 
of the nineteenth century, when the institution of an impersonal 
agency made the employer’s exploitation of this ''divide^' im- 
possible. For in this manner, the arbitrations by non-partisans 
who were resorted to in conflict situations, began to attain a 
finality which was recognized beyond the individual case by 
both parties to the matter at issue. Thus a general rule frequently 
regulated the negotiations between employer and employee, 
although they still negotiated individually. But this is, obviously, 
an intermediate step in the direction of collective contracts 
governing a whole trade and all interests within it; and this 
stage of collective contracts eliminates in principle the practice 
of ‘‘divide and rule." 

Divide et Impera 165 

In a similar fashion, the attempts of constitutional monarchs 
at splitting up parliaments in order to prevent the rise of in- 
convenient majorities, go beyond mere prophylactic measures. 
I mention only one example which is of major interest because 
of its radicalism. Under George III, the English court had the 
practice of declaring the party principle and its operation as 
actually inadmissible, and incompatible with the welfare of the 
state. It did so on the thesis that only the individual and his 
individual capabilities could render political services. By desig- 
nating laws and general directives as the specific functions of 
parties, the court requested '‘men, not measures.*’ It thus played 
up the practical significance of individuality against the actions 
by pluralities; it tried to dissolve the plurality into its atoms, 
allegedly its only real and effective elements, by somewhat de- 
rogatorily identifying it with abstract generality itself. 

The separation of the elements attains a more active, rather 
than a merely prohibitive form when the third person creates 
jealousy between them. The reference here is not yet to cases 
where he makes them destroy one another. On the contrary, here 
we are thinking of tendencies which often are conservative: 
the third wants to maintain his already existing prerogative by 
preventing a threatening coalition of the other two from arising, 
or at least from developing beyond mere beginnings. This tech- 
nique seems to have been used with particular finesse in a case 
that is reported of ancient Peru. It was the general custom of 
the Incas to divide a newly conquered tribe in two approxi- 
mately equal halves and to place a supervisor over each of them, 
but to give these two supervisors slightly different ranks. This 
was indeed the most suitable means for provoking rivalry be- 
tween the two heads, which prevented any united action against 
the ruler on the part of the subjected territory. By contrast, both 
identical ranks and greatly different ranks would have made 
unification much easier. If the two heads had had the same rank, 
an equal distribution of leadership in case of action would have 
been more likely than any other arrangement; and, since there 
would have been need for subordination, peers would have most 
probably submitted to such a technical necessity. If the two heads 
had had very diflEerent ranks, the leadership of the one would 
have found no opposition. The slight difference in rank least 

166 The Triad 

of all allows an organic and satisfactory arrangement in the 
unification feared, since the one would doubtless have claimed 
unconditional prerogative because of his superiority, which, on 
the other hand, was not significant enough to suggest the same 
claim to the other. 

The principle of the unequal distribution of values (of what- 
ever description) in order to make the ensuing jealousy a means 
for '‘divide and rule,” is a widely popular technique. But it 
should be noted that there are certain sociological circumstances 
that offer basic protection against it. Thus, the attempt was made 
to agitate Australian aborigines against one another by means 
of unequally distributed gifts. But this always failed in the face 
of the communism of the hordes, which distributed all gifts 
among all members, no matter to which they had gone. In addi- 
tion to jealousy, it is particularly distrust which is used as a 
psychological means to the same end. Distrust, in contrast to 
jealousy, is apt to prevent especially larger groups from forming 
conspiratory associations. In the most effective manner, this 
principle was employed by the government of Venice which, on 
a gigantic scale, invited the citizens to denounce all in any way 
suspect fellow citizens. Nobody knew whether his nearest ac- 
quaintance was in the service of the state inquisition. Revolu- 
tionary plans, which presuppose the mutual confidence of large 
numbers of persons, were thus cut at the root, so that in the later 
history of Venice, open revolts were practically absent. 

The grossest form of "divide and rule,” the unleashing of 
positive battle between two parties, may have its intention in the 
relationship of the third element either to the two or to objects 
lying outside them. The second of these two alternatives occurs 
where one of three job applicants manages to turn the two others 
against one another so that they reciprocally destroy their chances 
by gossip and calumny which each circulates about the other. 
In all these cases, the art of the third element is shown by the 
distance he knows how to keep between himself and the action 
which he starts. The more invisible the threads are by which he 
directs the fight, the better he knows how to build a fire in such 
a way that it goes on burning without his further interference 
and even surveillance — not only the more pointed and undis- 
tracted is the fight between the two until their mutual ruin is 

Divide et Impera 167 

reached, but the more likely is it that the prize of the fight be- 
tween them, as well as other objects that are valuable to him, 
seem almost automatically to fall into his lap. In this technique, 
too, the Venetians were masters. In order to take possession of 
estates owned by noblemen on the mainland, they used the means 
of awarding high titles to younger or inferior members of the 
nobility. The indignation of their elders and superiors always 
presented occasions for brawls and breaches of the peace between 
the two parties, whereupon the government of Venice, in all 
legal formality, confiscated the estates of the guilty parties. 

It is very plausible that in all such cases, the union of the 
discordant elements against the common suppressor would be a 
most expedient step to take. The failure of this union quite dis- 
tinctly shows the general condition of “divide and rule”: the 
fact that hostilities by no means have their sufficient ground in 
the clash of real interests. Once there is a need for hostility at all, 
once there is an antagonism which is merely groping for its ob- 
ject, it is easy to substitute for the adversary against whom hos- 
tility would make sense and have a purpose, a totally different 
one. “Divide and rule” requires of its artist that he create a 
general state of excitation and desire to fight by means of instiga- 
tions, calumnies,,flatteries, the excitement of expectations, etc. 
Once this is done, it is possible to succeed in slipping in an ad- 
versary that is not properly indicated. The form of the fight itself 
can thus be completely separated from its content and the rea- 
sonableness of this content. The third element, against whom 
the hostility of the two ought to be directed, can make himself 
invisible between them, so to speak, so that the clash of the two 
is not against him but against one another. 

Where the purpose of the third party is directed, not toward 
an object, but toward the immediate domination of the other 
two elements, two sociological considerations are essential, (i) 
Certain elements are formed in such a way that they can be 
fought successfully only by similar elements. The wish to subdue 
them finds no immediate point of attack. It is, therefore, neces- 
sary to divide them within themselves, as it were, and to continue 
a fight among the parts which they can wage with homogeneous 
weapons until they are sufficiently weakened to fall to the third 
element. It has been said of England that she could gain India 

168 The Triad 

only by means of India. Already Xerxes had recognized that 
Greeks were best to fight Greece. It is precisely those whose simi- 
larity of interests makes them depend upon one another who 
best know their mutual weaknesses and vulnerable points. The 
principle of similia similibus, of eliminating a condition by 
producing a similar one, therefore applies here on the largest 
scale. Mutual promotion and unification is best gained if there 
is a certain measure of qualitative difference, because this differ- 
ence produces a supplementation, a growing together, and an 
organically differentiated life. Mutual destruction, on the other 
hand, seems to succeed best if there is qualitative homogeneity, 
except, of course, in those cases where one party has such a 
quantitative superiority of power that the relation of its particu- 
lar characteristics to those of the other becomes altogether irrele- 
vant. The whole category of hostilities that has its extreme de- 
velopment in the fight between brothers, draws its radically 
destructive character from the fact that experience and knowl- 
edge, as well as the instincts flowing from their common root, 
give each of them the most deadly weapons precisely against this 
specific adversary. The basis of the relations among like elements 
is their common knowledge of external conditions and their 
empathy with the inner situation. Evidently, this is also the 
means for the deepest hurts, which neglect no possibility of at- 
tack. Since in its very nature this means is reciprocal, it leads 
to the most radical annihilation. For this reason, the fight of like 
against like, the splitting up of the adversary into two qualita- 
tively homogeneous parties, is one of the most pervasive realiza- 
tions of '‘divide and rule.” 

( 2 ) Where it is not possible for the suppressor to have his 
victims alone do his business, where, that is, he himself must 
take a hand in the fight, the schema is very simple: he supports 
one of them long enough for the other to be suppressed, where- 
upon the first is an easy prey for him. The most expedient man- 
ner is to support the one who is the stronger to begin with. This 
may take on the more negative form that, within a complex of 
elements intended for suppression, the more powerful is merely 
spared. When subjugating Greece, Rome was remarkably con- 
siderate in her treatment of Athens and Sparta. This procedure 
is bound to produce resentment and jealousy in the one camp. 

Divide et Impera 169 

and haughtiness and blind confidence in the other — a split which 
makes the prey easily available for the suppressor. It is a tech- 
nique employed by many rulers: he protects the stronger of two, 
both of whom are actually interested in his own downfall, until 
he has ruined the weaker; then he changes fronts and advances 
against the one now left in isolation, and subjugates him. This 
technique is no less popular in the founding of world empires 
than in the brawls of street urchins. It is employed by govern- 
ments in the manipulation of political parties as it is in competi- 
tive struggles in which three elements confront one another — 
perhaps a very powerful financier or industrialist and two less 
important competitors whose powers, though different from 
one another, are yet both a nuisance to him. In this case, the 
first, in order to prevent the two others from joining up, will 
make a price agreement or production arrangement with the 
stronger of the two, who draws considerable advantages from it, 
while the weaker is destroyed by the arrangement. Once he is, 
the second can be shaken off, for until then he was the ally of 
the first, but now he has no more backing and is being ruined by 
means of underselling or other methods. 

Chapter 5 

The Importance of Specific 
Numbers for Relations 
among Groups 

§ 1 . Group Subdivision 


a totally different type of sociological formations that depend 
upon the numerical determination of their elements. In the 
case of the dyads and triads, the point at issue was the inner 
group life with all its diflEerentiations, syntheses and antitheses, 
as it develops at those minimum or maximum numbers of 
members. The concern was not with the group as a whole in 
its relation to other groups or to a larger group of which it is 
a part, but rather with the immanent mutual relationship 
among its elements. But we may also ask the inverse question 
regarding the significance of numerical determination for the 
relations of the group with the outside. Here its most essen- 
tial function is its possibility of dividing a group into sub- 
groups. The teleological import of this subdivision, as has already 
been indicated earlier, is the easier surveillance and manipula- 
bility of the total group. It is often its earliest organization or, 
more correctly, its mechanization. In a purely formal respect, 
it supplies the possibility of preserving the form, character, and 
arrangement of the subdivisions, irrespective of the quantitative 
development of the total group itself. For, the components with 
which the administration of the whole counts remain, in a quali- 
tative sense, sociologically the same: the increase of the whole 
merely changes their multiplier. This, for instance, is the im- 
mense utility of the numerical division of armies. The increase 
of an army is a matter of relatively easy technique: it proceeds 


The Decimal Principle 171 

by the ever repeated formation of new cadres which themselves, 
however, are numerically, and hence organizationally, rigidly 

§ 2 . The Decimal Principle 

Evidently, this advantage is connected with numerical de- 
termination in general, but not with any particular numbers. Yet 
one class of numbers, which has already been mentioned earlier, 
has attained a particular historical importance for social divi- 
sions: ten and its derivations. In this unification of ten members 
for purposes of solidary work and responsibility, which we find 
in many of the oldest cultures, no doubt the number of fingers 
was decisive. Where arithmetical skill is completely lacking, 
the fingers provide a first principle of orientation for determin- 
ing a plurality of units and showing their divisions and composi- 
tions. This general significance of the principle of five and ten 
has been noted often enough. Its social significance is due to a 
very special circumstance. The fingers are relatively independent 
of one another and have relative autonomy in their movements. 
But, on the other hand, they are inseparable (in France one says 
of two friends: 'Tls^ont unis comme deux doigts de la main**) and 
receive their very sense only from their togetherness. They thus 
offer a highly pertinent model for social groups of individuals: 
the unity and peculiar co-efficacy among small subgroups of 
larger collectivities could not be symbolized more impressively. 

Even quite recently, the Czech secret society “Omladina'' 
was constituted on the principle of the number five: its leader- 
ship belonged to several “hands,’’ each of which consisted of a 
thumb (the highest leader) and four fingers.^^ How strongly a 

1* Lcx)ked at from a different and more general angle, the division by numbers 
of fingers belongs in the typical tendency to use phenomena of a given, impressive, 
natural rhythm for this sociological purpose, at least as far as name and symbol 
are concerned. A secret political society under Louis Philippe called itself “The 
Seasons.” Six members under the leadership of a seventh, who was called Sunday, 
formed a week; four weeks, a month; three months, a season; and four seasons, the 
highest unit that stood under a supreme commander. In spite of all the play- 
fulness of these designations, the feeling that the group initiated a unit of different 
elements that was indicated by nature, probably somehow played its role. And the 
mystical coloration toward which secret societies tend in general was likely to favor 
this symbolization with which — so one could well believe — one could inject a 
cosmically formative force into a merely willed structure. 

172 The Importance of Specific Numbers 

unit of ten within a larger group was felt to belong together, is 
also shown (perhaps) by the custom, which can be traced back 
to early antiquity, of decimating army subdivisions in the case 
of rebellions, desertions, etc. It was ten that were considered a 
unit which, for the purposes of punishment, could be repre- 
sented by the individual; or perhaps there also was the vague 
experience that among each ten men there usually is, on the 
average, one ringleader. The division of a group into ten numeri- 
cally equal parts evidently leads to a totally different result than 
the division into individuals each representing ten others, and 
the two types of division have no objective or practical connec- 
tion with one another. Nevertheless, it seems to me that psy- 
chologically, the first derives from the second. When the Jews 
returned from the Second Exile — ^42,360 Jews with their slaves — 
they were distributed in such a way that one tenth, drawn out 
by lot, took residence in Jerusalem, and the remaining nine 
tenths in the country. For the capital, these were decidedly too 
few, and indeed one had at once to think of measures to increase 
the population of Jerusalem. It appears that here the power of 
the decimal principle as the ground of social division made 
people blind to practical exigencies. 

The Hundred is derived from the same principle. Above all, 
it is essentially a means of division, and historically the most im- 
portant one. I already mentioned that it has become the con- 
ceptual representative of division itself, so that its name remains 
attached to the subgroup even when this subgroup contains 
considerably fewer or more members. The Hundred — most de- 
cisively perhaps in the large role that it plays in the administra- 
tion of Anglo-Saxon England — appears, so to speak, as the idea 
of the part-group in general; and its external incompleteness 
does not alter its inner significance. It is very characteristic that 
in ancient Peru the Hundreds voluntarily continued to pay their 
tribute to the Incas by exerting all their strength, long after they 
had sunk to a fourth of their original number. The sociological 
basis here is that these territorial groups were conceived as units 
irrespective of their members. Since it seems, however, that the 
obligation to pay taxes referred, not to the group, but to its one 
hundred elements, the taking over of this obligation by the re- 

The Decimal Principle 173 

maining twenty-five shows all the more distinctly how uncondi- 
tional, naturally solidary a unit the Hundred was felt to be. 

It is inevitable that . the division into Hundreds breaks 
through various organic relations — of kin, neighborhood, and 
sympathy — among elements and their aggregates. The decimal 
division is always a mechanical-technical principle: a teleologi- 
cal, not a natural-spontaneous principle. Occasionally, in fact, 
it is combined with a more organic division. The medieval arnly 
of the German empire was constituted according to tribes; but 
at the same time we hear that the division by Thousands cut 
through and superseded the other order which was more natural 
and more determined by a terminus a quo,^^ Nevertheless, the 
strong centripetality, which is revealed by the organization of 
the group into Hundreds, suggests that its significance lies not 
only in its classificatory purpose. In fact, classification is merely 
a superficial feature; by means of it the larger, inclusive group 
is served. Aside from this, the number hundred itself is found 
to bestow a particular significance and dignity upon the group 
so composed. The nobility in Locri Epizephyrii traced its origin 
to noble women of the so-called “hundred houses'* who partici- 
pated in the founding of the colony. Likewise, the original set- 
tlements through .which Rome was founded are said to have 
consisted of a hundred Latin gentesj a hundred Sabellic gentes, 
and a hundred gentes that were composed of various elements. 
One hundred members apparently give the group a certain style, 
an exactly delimited, rigorous contour in comparison with which 
a slightly smaller or larger number appears relatively vague and 
less complete in itself. The Hundred has an inner unity and 
systematic character which makes it particularly suitable for 
the formation of genealogical myths. It represents a peculiar syn- 
thesis of mystical symmetry and rational sense. By comparison, 
all other numbers of group elements are felt to be accidental, not 
equally held together by their inner coherence, not equally 
unchangeable in their very structure. The especially adequate 
relation to the categories of our mind, the ease with which one 
hundred can be surveyed and controlled and made so suitable 
as a classificatory principle, appear to be the reflection of an 

18 “Limit from which; starting-point.** Here; ‘‘from the standpoint of the com- 
ponent individuals (rather than from that of the administration).** — ^Tr. 

174 The Importance of Specific Numbers 

objective characteristic of the group which the group derives 
from precisely this numerical determination. 

§ 3 . The Outside Regulation of Groups according to 
Their Maximum and Minimum Sizes 

This characteristic is totally different from those so far dis- 
cussed. In the combinations of two and three, the number de- 
termined the inner life of the group. But it did so not in its 
capacity of mere quantum. The dyad and the triad showed their 
characteristics not because they had these respective sizes as 
total groups: what we observed, rather, were the determinations 
of every single element by its interaction with one as over against 
two other elements. It is quite different in regard to all deriva- 
tions of the number of fingers. Here, the ground of the synthesis 
lies in the greater convenience with which the group can be 
surveyed, organized, and directed. In brief, it does not properly 
lie in the group itself but in the subject which theoretically or 
practically has to deal with it. We come, now, to a third signifi- 
cance of the numbers of members. We now discover that, ob- 
jectively and as a whole, that is, regardless of differences among 
the individual positions of its elements, the group shows certain 
characteristics only below or only above a certain size. In quite 
general terms, this was already discussed in connection with the 
difference between large and small groups. But now the question 
is whether certain characteristics of the total group might not 
derive from specific numbers of members. Even here, of course, 
the interactions among individuals constitute the real and de- 
cisive process of group life. But now it is not these interactions 
in their details but their fusion into an image of the whole which 
is the topic of inquiry. 

All facts that suggest this significance of group quantity be- 
long to one type, namely, to the legal prescriptions regarding 
the minimum or maximum membership of associations which 
claim certain functions or rights and carry out certain duties. It 
is easy to find the reason for this. There are particular qualities 
which associations develop on the basis of the number of mem- 
bers and which are justified by legal prescriptions regarding 
these numbers. These qualities and prescriptions, of course. 

The Outside Regulation of Groups 175 

would always be the same and would always be attached to the 
same numbers, if there were no psychological differences among 
men. But the effect of a group does not follow its quantity as 
exactly as does the energy effect of a moved homogeneous mass 
of matter. The vast individual differences among the members 
make all exact determinations and pre-determinations com- 
pletely illusory. They explain why the same measure of strength 
or thoughtlessness, of concentration or decentralization, of self- 
sufficiency or need for leadership, are at one moment shown by 
a group of a certain size, at another by a much smaller group, 
but, at still another moment, only by a much larger one. On the 
other hand, the laws that are determined by these characteristics 
of associations cannot, for technical reasons, be concerned with 
such oscillations and paralyzations by the accidental human ma- 
terial. They must indicate particular numbers of members which 
they consider average and with which they connect the groups* 
rights and duties. They do so on the assumption that a certain 
common spirit, mood, strength, or tendency among a certain 
number of persons emerges if, and only if, this number attains a 
certain limit. According to whether this result is desired or 
feared, a minimum number is requested, or a maximum number 
is allowed. 

I will first give a few examples of the second alternative. In 
the early Greek period, there were legal provisions according 
to which ship crews could not consist of more than five men, in 
order to prevent them from engaging in piracy. In 1436, the 
Rhenish cities, fearing the rise of associations among apprentices, 
prescribed that no more than three apprentices should go about 
in the same dress. In fact, political prohibitions are most common 
in this category generally. In 1305, Philip the Fair forbade all 
meetings of more than five persons, regardless of their rank or 
the form of the meetings. Under the Ancien Regime, twenty 
noblemen were not allowed without special concession from 
the King to assemble even for a conference. Napoleon III pro- 
hibited all organizations of more than twenty persons that were 
not specifically authorized. In England, the Conventicle Act 
under Charles II made all religious home assemblies of more 
than five persons subject to punishment. English Reaction at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century prohibited all meetings of 

176 The Importance of Specific Numbers 

more than fifty persons that were not announced long in advance. 
Under conditions of siege, often not more than three or five 
persons may stand together in the street. A few years ago, the 
Berlin Supreme Court of judicature defined a Versammlung 
in the legal sense, that is, an assembly requiring notification of 
the police, as a meeting of eight persons and more. In the purely 
economic sphere, we find the same idea, for instance, in the 
English law of 1708 (established under the influence of the Bank 
of England), according to which legal financial associations were 
not permitted to have more than six members. 

In all these cases, we may assume, the government is con- 
vinced that only within groups of the sizes indicated is found the 
courage or rashness, the spirit of enterprise, or the capacity for 
being pushed into certain actions, which it does not wish to 
emerge. This motive is most distinct in legislation that has to 
do with moral considerations. If the number of participants in 
a drinking bout or in a parade or procession, etc., is limited, it 
is because of the experience that, in a larger mass, sensuous im- 
pulses gain more easily the upper hand, contagion by bad ex- 
ample spreads more rapidly, the individual feeling of respon- 
sibility is paralyzed. 

The opposite direction, on the same basis, is shown in those 
regulations which require a minimum of participants for groups 
to attain a certain legal effect. In England, any economic asso- 
ciation can obtain the right to incorporate as soon as it has seven 
members. Everywhere, the law requires a certain (though greatly 
varying) minimum number of judges for finding a legally valid 
verdict so that, for instance, in some places certain judicial col- 
leges are simply called the Seven. In regard to the first example, 
it is assumed that only this particular number of members results 
in adequate guarantees and an effective solidarity, without which 
the privileges of corporations are a danger to the national 
economy. In the second example, only the prescribed minimum 
number seems to ensure that individual errors and extreme 
opinions balance one another and, thus, allow a collective opin- 
ion to emerge which finds what is objectively correct. This mini- 
mum requirement is especially evident in connection with 
religious phenomena. The regular meetings of the Buddhist 
monks of a certain territory, which took place for the purpose 

The Outside Regulation of Groups 177 

of renewed religious indoctrination and a kind of confession, 
required the presence of at least four monks. Only this number 
completed (as it were) the synod; and, as a member of this synod, 
each monk had a somewhat different significance from what he 
had as an individual monk — ^which he was only as long as no 
more than three came together. There must always be at least 
ten Jews for praying in common. According to the Lockean 
constitution of North Carolina, any church or religious group 
was allowed to form if it consisted of at least seven members. 
The strength, concentration, and stability of a common religious 
mood is expected, in all these cases, only of a certain number 
of members, who mutually support and strengthen one another. 
In sum: where the law fixes a minimum, confidence in large 
numbers and distrust of isolated individual energies are at work; 
where, inversely, a maximum is prescribed, distrust of large num- 
bers is in operation, but not of their individual components. 

But whether a prohibition concerns a maximum, or a per- 
mission a minimum, the legislators must know that the results 
feared or wished are connected only in an uncertain and average 
way with the sizes established. And yet, the arbitrary character of 
the determination is as inevitable and as justified as it is in the fix- 
ing of a certain age at which a man comes to have the privileges 
and duties of majority. To be sure, the real capacity to be of 
“legal age’' develops in some individuals earlier, in some later, 
and in none suddenly at the minute fixed by law. But practice can 
attain the fixed standards it needs only by splitting up, at a cer- 
tain point, a continuous series into two segments created for 
legal purposes. The profoundly different ways of treating these 
segments cannot be justified on the grounds of their objective 
natures. For this reason, it is extremely instructive to note that 
in all regulations of which examples were given above, the spe- 
cific qualities of the persons involved are not taken into consider- 
ation, although it is these qualities which determine the single 
case. But they are nothing tangible — the only tangible element 
left is number. And it is essential to observe the ubiquitous, 
deep feeling that the number would be decisive in case individual 
differences did not cancel its effects — but that, for this very 
reason, these effects are sure to be contained in the eventual 
total phenomenon. 

Part Three 

Superordination and 

Chapter 1 


§ 1 . Domination^ a Form of Interaction 


wishes that his influence completely determine the other indi- 
vidual. He rather wants this influence, this determination of the 
other, to act back upon him. Even the abstract will-to-dominate, 
therefore, is a case of interaction. This will draws its satisfaction 
from the fact that the acting or suffering of the other, his posi- 
tive or negative condition, offers itself to the dominator as the 
product of his will. The significance of this solipsistic exercise 
of domination (so to speak) consists, for the superordinate him- 
self, exclusively in the consciousness of his efficacy. Sociologically 
speaking, it is only a rudimentary form. By virtue of it alone, 
sociation occurs as little as it does between a sculptor and his 
statue, although the statue, too, acts back on the artist through 
his consciousness of his own creative power. The practical func- 
tion of this desire for domination, even in this sublimated form, 
is not so much the exploitation of the other as the mere con- 
sciousness of this possibility. For the rest, it does not represent 
the extreme case of egoistic inconsiderateness. Certainly, the de- 
sire for domination is designed to break the internal resistance 
of the subjugated (whereas egoism usually aims only at the victory 
over his external resistance). But still, even the desire for dom- 
ination has some interest in the other person, who constitutes 
a value for it. Only when egoism does not even amount to a de- 
sire for domination; only when the other is absolutely indifferent 
and a mere means for purposes which lie beyond him, is the 
last shadow of any sociating process removed. 

The definition of later Roman jurists shows, in a relative 
way, that the elimination of all independent significance of one 


182 Introduction 

of the two interacting parties annuls the very notion of society. 
This definition was to the effect that the societas leonina ^ must 
not be conceived of as a social contract. A comparable state- 
ment has been made regarding the lowest-paid workers in modern 
giant enterprises which preclude all effective competition among 
rivaling entrepreneurs for the services of these laborers. It has 
been said that the difference in the strategic positions of workers 
and employers is so overwhelming that the work contract ceases 
to be a “contract” in the ordinary sense of the word, because 
the former are unconditionally at the mercy of the latter. It thus 
appears that the moral maxim never to use a man as a mere 
means is actually the formula of every sociation. Where the sig- 
nificance of the one party sinks so low that its effect no longer 
enters the relationship with the other, there is as little ground 
for speaking of sociation as there is in the case of the carpenter 
and his bench. 

Within a relationship of subordination, the exclusion of all 
spontaneity whatever is actually rarer than is suggested by such 
widely used popular expressions as “coercion,” “having no 
choice,” “absolute necessity,” etc. Even in the most oppressive 
and cruel cases of subordination, there is still a considerable 
measure of personal freedom. We merely do not become aware 
of it, because its manifestation would entail sacrifices which we 
usually never think of taking upon ourselves. Actually, the “ab- 
solute” coercion which even the most cruel tyrant imposes upon 
us is always distinctly relative. Its condition is our desire 4:0 
escape from the threatened punishment or from other conse- 
quences of our disobedience. More precise analysis shows that 
the super-subordination relationship destroys the subordinate’s 
freedom only in the case of direct physical violation. In every 
other case, this relationship only demands a price for the realiza- 
tion of freedom — a price, to be sure, which we are not willing to 
pay. It can narrow down more and more the sphere of external 
conditions under which freedom is clearly realized, but, except 
for physical force, never to the point of the complete disappear- 
ance of freedom. The moral side of this analysis does not concern 
us here, but only its sociological aspect. This aspect consists in 

1 “Sociation with a lion/* that is, a partnership in which all the advantage is on 
one side. — ^Tr. 

Authority and Prestige 183 

the fact that interaction, that is, action which is mutually de- 
termined, action which stems exclusively from personal origins, 
prevails even where it often is not noted. It exists even in those 
cases of superordination and subordination — and therefore 
makes even those cases societal forms — ^where according to popu- 
lar notions the ‘"coercion** by one party deprives the other of 
every spontaneity, and thus of every real “effect,” or contribu- 
tion to the process of interaction. 

§ 2. Authority and Prestige 

Relationships of superordination and subordination play an 
immense role in social life. It is therefore of the utmost import- 
ance for its analysis to clarify the spontaneity and co-efficiency 
of the subordinate subject and thus to correct their widespread 
minimization by superficial notions about them. For instance, 
what is called “authority** presupposes, in a much higher degree 
than is usually recognized, a freedom on the part of the person 
subjected to authority. Even where authority seems to “crush** 
him, it is based not only on coercion or compulsion to yield to it. 

The peculiar structure of “authority** is significant for social 
life in the mosfr varied ways; it shows itself in beginnings as well 
as in exaggerations, in acute as well as in lasting forms. It seems 
to come about in two different ways. A person of superior signi- 
ficance or strength may acquire, in his more immediate or re- 
mote milieu, an overwhelming weight of his opinions, a faith, 
or a confidence which have the character of objectivity. He thus 
enjoys a prerogative and an axiomatic trustworthiness in his de- 
lusions which excel, at least by a fraction, the value of mere 
subjective personality, which is always variable, relative, and 
subject to criticism. By acting “authoritatively,** the quantity 
of his significance is transformed into a new quality; it assumes 
for his environment the physical state — metaphorically speaking 
— of objectivity. 

But the same result, authority, may be attained in the oppo- 
site direction. A super-individual power — state, church, school, 
family or military organizations — clothes a person with a reputa- 
tion, a dignity, a power of ultimate decision, which would never 
flow from his individuality. It is the nature of an authoritative 

184 Introduction 

person to make decisions with a certainty and automatic recog- 
nition which logically pertain only to impersonal, objective 
axioms and deductions. In the case under discussion, authority 
descends upon a person from above, as it were, whereas in the 
case treated before, it arises from the qualities of the person 
himself, through a generatio aequivoca.^ But evidently, at this 
point of transition and change-over [from the personal to the 
authoritative situation], the more or less voluntary faith of the 
party subjected to author tiy comes into play. This transformation 
of the value of personality into a super-personal value gives the 
personality something which is beyond its demonstrable and 
rational share, however slight this addition may be. The believer 
in authority himself achieves the transformation. He (the sub- 
ordinate element) participates in a sociological event which 
requires his spontaneous cooperation. As a matter of fact, the 
very feeling of the “oppressiveness” of authority suggests that 
the autonomy of the subordinate party is actually presupposed 
and never wholly eliminated. 

Another nuance of superiority, which is designated as “pres- 
tige,” must be distinguished from “authority.” Prestige lacks 
the element of super-subjective significance; it lacks the identity 
of the personality with an objective power or norm. Leadership 
by means of prestige is determined entirely by the strength of 
the individual. This individual force always remains conscious 
of itself. Moreover, whereas the average type of leadership always 
shows a certain mixture of personal and superadded-objective 
factors, prestige leadership stems from pure personality, even as 
authority stems from the objectivity of norms and forces. Su- 
periority through prestige consists in the ability to “push” indi- 
viduals and masses and to make unconditional followers of them. 
Authority does not have this ability to the same extent. The 
higher, cooler, and normative character of authority is more apt 
to leave room for criticism, even on the part of its followers. In 
spite of this, however, prestige strikes us as the more voluntary 
homage to the superior person. Actually, perhaps, the recogni- 
tion of authority implies a more profound freedom of the sub- 
ject than does the enchantment that emanates from the prestige 
of a prince, a priest, a military or spiritual leader. But the matter 
2 “Equivocal birth" or “spontaneous generation." — ^Tr. 

Leader and Led 185 

is difiEerent in regard to the feeling on the part of those led. In 
the face of authority, we are often defenseless, whereas the dlan 
with which we follow a given prestige always contains a con- 
sciousness of spontaneity. Here, precisely because devotion is 
only to the wholly personal, this devotion seems to flow only 
from the ground of personality with its inalienable freedom. 
Certainly, man is mistaken innumerable times regarding the 
measure of freedom which he must invest in a certain action. 
One reason for this is the vagueness and uncertainty of the 
explicit conception by means of which we account for this inner 
process. But in whatever way we interpret freedom, we can say 
that some measure of it, even though it may not be the measure 
we suppose, is present wherever there is the feeling and the con- 
viction of freedom.® 

§ 3. Leader and Led 

The seemingly wholly passive element is in reality even more 
active in relationships such as obtain between a speaker and his 
audience or between a teacher and his class. Speaker and teacher 
appear to be nothing but leaders; nothing but, momentarily, 
superordinate. ^Yet whoever finds himself in such or a similar 
situation feels the determining and controlling re-action on the 
part of what seems to be a purely receptive and guided mass. This 
applies not only to situations where the two parties confront one 
another physically. All leaders are also led; in innumerable cases, 
the master is the slave of his slaves. Said one of the greatest Ger- 
man party leaders referring to his followers: “lam their leader, 
therefore I must follow them.” 

In the grossest fashion, this is shown by the journalist. The 
journalist gives content and direction to the opinions of a mute 
multitude. But he is nevertheless forced to listen, combine, and 

8 Here — and analogously in many other cases — the point is not to define the 
concept of prestige but only to ascertain the existence of a certain variety of human 
interactions, quite irrespective of their designation. The presentation, however, 
often begins appropriately with the concept which linguistic usage makes rela- 
tively most suitable for the discovery of the relationship, because it suggests it. 
This sounds like a merely definitory procedure. Actually, however, the attempt 
is never to find the content of a concept, but to describe, rather, an actual content, 
which only occasionally has the chance of being covered, more or less, by an already 
existing concept. 

186 Intr&duction 

guess what the tendencies of this multitude are, what it desires 
to hear and to have confirmed, and whither it wants to be led. 
While apparently it is only the public which is exposed to his 
suggestions, actually he is as much under the sway of the public^ s 
suggestion. Thus, a highly complex interaction (whose two, 
mutually spontaneous forces, to be sure, appear under very 
different forms) is hidden here beneath the semblance of the 
pure superiority of the one element and a purely passive being- 
led of the other. 

The content and significance of certain personal relations 
consist in the fact that the exclusive function of one of the two 
elements is service for the other. But the perfect measure of this 
devotion of the first element often depends on the condition that 
the other element surrenders to the first, even though on a differ- 
ent level of the relationship. Thus, Bismarck remarked concern- 
ing his relation to William I: “A certain measure of devotion 
is determined by law; a greater measure, by political conviction; 
beyond this, a personal feeling of reciprocity is required. — My 
devotion had its principal ground in my loyalty to royalist con- 
victions. But in the special form in which this royalism existed, 
it is after all possible only under the impact of a certain reci- 
procity — the reciprocity between master and servant.” The most 
characteristic case of this type is shown, perhaps, by hypnotic 
suggestion. An outstanding hypnotist pointed out that in every 
hypnosis the hypnotized has an effect upon the hypnotist; and 
that, although this effect cannot be easily determined, the result 
of the hypnosis could not be reached without it. Thus here, too, 
appearance shows an absolute influence, on the one side, and an 
absolute being-influenced, on the other; but it conceals an inter- 
action, an exchange of influences, which transforms the pure 
one-sidedness of superordination and subordination into a socio- 
logical form. 

§ 4. Interaction in the Idea of “Law” 

I shall cite some cases of superordination and subordination 
in the field of law. It is easy to reveal the interaction which actu- 
ally exists in what seems a purely unilateral situation. If the ab- 
solute despot accompanies his orders by the threat of punishment 

Interaction in the Idea of ''Law'" 187 

or the promise of reward, this implies that he himself wishes to be 
bound by the decrees he issues. The subordinate is expected to 
have the right to request something of him; and by establishing 
the punishment, no matter how horrible, the despot commits 
himself not to impose a more severe one. Whether or not after- 
ward he actually abides by the punishment established or the 
reward promised is a different question: the significance of the 
relation is that, although the superordinate wholly determines 
the subordinate, the subordinate nevertheless is assured of a 
claim on which he can insist or which he can waive. Thus even 
this extreme form of the relationship still contains some sort of 
spontaneity on his part. 

The motive of interaction within an apparently one-sided 
and passive subordination appears in a peculiar modification in 
a medieval theory of the state. According to this theory, the state 
came into existence because men mutually obligated one an- 
other to submit to a common chief. Thus, the ruler — including, 
apparently, the unconditional ruler — is appointed on the basis 
of a mutual contract among his subjects. Whereas contempo- 
raneous theories of domination saw its reciprocal character in 
the contract between ruler and ruled, the theory under discus- 
sion located this mutual nature of domination in its very basis, 
the people: the obligation to the prince is conceived to be the 
mere articulation, expression, or technique of a reciprocal rela- 
tion among the individuals of whom his people is composed. In 
Hobbes, in fact, the ruler has no means of breaking the contract 
with his subjects because he has not made one; and the corollary 
to this is that the subject, even if he rebels against his ruler, does 
not thereby break a contract concluded with him^ but only the 
contract he has entered with all other members of the society, to 
the effect of letting themselves be governed by this ruler. 

It is the absence of this reciprocity which accounts for the 
observation that the tyranny of a group over its own members is 
worse than that of a prince over his subjects. The group — and 
by no means the political group alone — conceives of its mem- 
bers, not as confronting it, but as being included by it as its own 
links. This often results in a peculiar inconsiderateness toward 
the members, which is very different from a ruler's personal 
cruelty. Wherever there is, formally, confrontation (even if, con- 

188 Introduction 

tentually, it comes close to submission), there is interaction; and, 
in principle, interaction always contains some limitation of each 
party to the process (although there may be individual exceptions 
to this rule). Where superordination shows an extreme incon- 
siderateness, as in the case of the group that simply disposes of 
its members, there no longer is any confrontation with its form 
of interaction, which involves spontaneity, and hence limitation, 
of both superordinate and subordinate elements. 

This is very clearly expressed in the original conception of 
Roman law. In its purity, the term “law” implies a submission 
which does not involve any spontaneity or counter-effect on the 
part of the person subordinate to the law. And the fact that the 
subordinate has actually cooperated in making it — and more, 
that he has given himself the law which binds him — is irrelevant. 
For in doing so, he hcis merely decomposed himself into the sub- 
ject and object of lawmaking; and the law which the subject 
applies to the object does not change its significance only by the 
fact that both subject and object are accidentally lodged in the 
same physical person. Nevertheless, in their conception of law, 
the Romans directly allude to the idea of interaction. For ori- 
ginally, “lex” means “contract,” even though in the sense that 
the conditions of the contract are fixed by its proponent, and 
the other party can merely accept or reject it in its totality. In 
the beginning, the lex publica populi romani implied that the 
King proposed this legislation, and the people were its acceptors. 
Hence the very concept which most of all seems to exclude inter- 
action is, nevertheless, designed to refer to it by its linguistic 
expression. In a certain sense this is revealed in the prerogative 
of the Roman king that he alone was allowed to speak to the 
people. Such a prerogative, to be sure, expressed the jealously 
guarded exclusiveness of his rulership, even as in ancient Greece 
the right of everybody to speak to the people indicated complete 
democracy. Nevertheless, this prerogative implies that the sig- 
nificance of speaking to the people, and, hence, of the people 
themselves, was recognized. Although the people merely received 
this one-sided action, they were nonetheless a contractor (whose 
party to the contract, of course, was only a single person, the 

The purpose of these preliminary remarks was to show the 

Interaction in the Idea of “Law” 189 

properly sociological, social-formative character of superordina- 
tion and subordination even where it appears as if a social 
relationship were replaced by a purely mechanical one — ^where, 
that is, the position of the subordinate seems to be that of a 
means or an object for the superordinate, without any spon- 
taneity. It has been possible, at least in many cases, to show the 
sociologically decisive reciprocal effectiveness, which was con- 
cealed under the one-sided character of influence and being- 

Chapter 2 

Subordination under 
an Individual 

§ 1. Three Kinds of Subordination 


nation may be divided according to a three-fold scheme. This is 
superficial, but convenient for our discussion. Superordination 
may be exerted by an individual, by a group, or by an objective 
force — social or ideal. I shall now discuss some of the sociological 
implications of these possibilities. 

§ 2. Kinds of Subordination under an Individual 

The subordination of a group under a single person results, 
above all, in a very decisive unification of the group. This unifi- 
cation is almost equally evident in both of two characteristic 
forms of this subordination. First, the group forms an actual, 
inner unit together with its head; the ruler leads the group forces 
in their own direction, promoting and fusing them; superordi- 
nation, therefore, here really means only that the will of the 
group has found a unitary expression or body. Secondly, the 
group feels itself in opposition to its head and forms a party 
against him. 

In regard to the first form, every sociological consideration 
immediately shows the immeasurable advantage which one-man 
rule has for the fusion and energy-saving guidance of the group 
forces. I will cite only two instances of common subordination to 
one element. These cases are very heterogeneous as far as their 
contents are concerned, but nevertheless show how irreplaceable 
this subordination is for the unity of the whole. The sociology 


Kinds of Subordination under an Individual 191 

of religion must make a basic distinction between two types of 
religious organization. There may be the unification of group 
members which lets the common god grow, as it were, out of this 
togetherness itself, as the symbol and the sanctification of their 
belonging together. This is true in many primitive religions. On 
the other hand, only the conception of the god itself may bring 
the members together into a unit — members who before had no, 
or only slight, relations with one another. How well Christianity 
exemplifies this second type need not be described, nor is it neces- 
sary to emphasize how particular Christian sects find their speci- 
fic and especially strong cohesion in the absolutely subjective 
and mystical relation to the person of Jesus, a relation which 
each member possesses as an individual, and thus quite inde- 
pendently of every other member and of the total group. But 
even of the Jews it has been asserted that they feel the contractual 
relation to Jehovah which they hold in common, that is, which 
directly concerns every one of them, as the real power and signi- 
ficance of membership in the Jewish nation. 

By contrast, in other religions which originated at the same 
time as Judaism, it was kinship that connected each member 
with every other, and only later, all of them with the divine 
principle. On the basis of its widely ramified personal depend- 
encies and “services,” medieval feudalism had frequent occasion 
to exemplify this same formal structure. It is perhaps most 
characteristically shown in the associations of the “ministers” 
(unfree court servants and house servants) who stood in a close, 
purely personal relation to the prince. Their associations had 
no objective basis whatever, such as the village communities 
under bondage had by virtue of the nearby manor. The “minis- 
ters” were employed in highly varied services and had their 
residences in different localities, but nevertheless formed tightly 
closed associations which nobody could enter or leave without 
their authorization. They developed their own family and prop- 
erty laws; they had freedom of contract and of social intercourse 
among one another, and they imposed the expiation of breach 
of peace within their group. But they had no other basis for 
this close unit than the identity of the ruler whom they served, 
who represented them to the outside, and who was their legal 
agent in matters involving the law of the land. Here, as in the 

192 Subordination under an Individual 

case of religion mentioned before, the subordination under an 
individual power is not the consequence or expression of an 
already existing organic or interest group (as it is in many, 
especially political, cases). On the contrary, the superordination 
of one ruler is the cause of a commonness which in the absence 
of it could not be attained and which is not predetermined by 
any other relation among its members. 

It should be noted that not only the equal, but often pre- 
cisely the unequal, relation of the subordinates to the dominat- 
ing head gives solidity to the social form characterized by sub- 
ordination under one individual. The varying distance or close- 
ness to the leader creates a differentiation which is not less firm 
and articulate because the internal aspect of these relations to 
him often is jealousy, repulsion, or haughtiness. The social level 
of the individual Indian caste is determined by its relation to 
the Brahman. The decisive questions are; Would the Brahman 
accept a gift from one of their members? Would he accept a 
glass of water from his hand without reluctance? Or with diffi- 
culty? Or would he reject it with abhorrence? That the peculiar 
firmness of caste stratification depends on such questions is char- 
acteristic of the form under discussion for the reason that the 
mere fact of a highest point determines, as a purely ideal factor, 
the structural position of every element, and thus the structure 
of the whole. That this highest layer should be occupied by a 
great many individuals is quite irrelevant, since the sociological 
form of the effect is here exactly like that of an individual: the 
relation to the “Brahman” is decisive. In other words, the formal 
characteristic of subordination under an individual may prevail 
even where there is a plurality of superordinate individuals. 
The specific sociological significance of such a plurality will be 
shown later, in connection with other phenomena. 

§ 3 . Unification of a Group in Opposition to the Ruler 

The unificatory consequence of subordination under one 
ruling power operates even when the group is in opposition to 
this power. The political group, the factory, the school class, 
the church congregation — all indicate how the culmination of 
an organization in a head helps to effect the unity of the whole 

Unification of a Group in Opposition to the Ruler 193 

in the case of either harmony or discord. Discord, in fact, perhaps 
even more stringently than harmony, forces the group to “pull 
itself together.” In general, common enmity is one of the most 
powerful means for motivating a number of individuals or 
groups to cling together. This common enmity is intensified if 
the common adversary is at the same time the common ruler. 
In a latent, certainly not in an overt and effective, form, this 
combination probably occurs everywhere: in some measure, in 
some respect, the ruler is almost always an adversary. Man has 
an intimate dual relation to the principle of subordination. 
On the one hand, he wants to be dominated. The majority of 
men not only cannot exist without leadership; they also feel that 
they cannot: they seek the higher power which relieves them 
of responsibility; they seek a restrictive, regulatory rigor which 
protects them not only against the outside world but also against 
themselves. But no less do they need opposition to the leading 
power, which only through this opposition, through move and 
countermove, as it were, attains the right place in the life pattern 
of those who obey it. 

One might even say that obedience and opposition are merely 
two sides or links of one human attitude which fundamentally 
is quite consistent. They are two sides that are oriented in dif- 
ferent directions and only seem to be autonomous impulses. 
The simplest illustration here is from the field of politics. No 
matter of how many divergent and conflicting parties a nation 
may be composed, it nevertheless has a common interest in 
keeping the powers of the crown within limits or in restricting 
them — in spite of all the practical irreplaceability of the crown 
and even in spite of all sentimental attachment to it. For hun- 
dreds of years following the Magna Charta, there was a lively 
awareness in England that certain fundamental rights had to 
be preserved and increased for all classes; that nobility could 
not maintain its freedoms without the freedoms of the weaker 
classes being maintained at the same time; and that only the 
law which applied to nobility, burgher, and peasant alike repre- 
sented a limitation of the personal reign. It has often been re- 
marked that as long as this ultimate goal of the struggle — the 
restrictions upon monarchy — is endangered, nobility always has 
people and clergy on its side. And even where one-man rule 

194 Subordination under an Individual 

does not engender this sort of unification, at least it creates a 
common arena for the fight of its subordinates — between those 
who are for the ruler and those who are against him. There is 
hardly a sociological structure, subject to a supreme head, in 
which this pro and con does not occasion a vitality of inter- 
actions and ramifications among the elements that in terms of 
an eventual unification is greatly superior to many peaceful but 
indifferent aggregates — in spite of all repulsions, frictions, and 
costs of the fight. 

§ 4 . Dissociating Effects of Subordination 
under an Individual 

The present discussion is not concerned with constructing 
dogmatically one-sided series but with presenting basic proc- 
esses whose infinitely varying extents and combinations often 
cause their superficial manifestations to contradict one another. 
It must therefore be emphasized that the common submission 
to a ruling power by no means always leads to unification but, 
if the submission occurs under certain conditions, to the very 
opposite of it. For instance, English legislation directed a num- 
ber of measures and exclusions concerning military service, the 
right to vote, ownership, and government positions, against non- 
conformists, that is, against Presbyterians, Catholics, and Jews 
alike. The member of the state church thus used his prerogative 
to give equal expression to his hatred of all these groups. But 
this did not fuse the oppressed into a community of any sort; 
on the contrary, the hatred of the Conformist was even surpassed 
by the Presbyterian’s hatred of the Catholic, and of the Catholic’s 
of the Presbyterian. 

Here we seem to deal with a psychological “threshold phe- 
nomenon.’’ There is a measure of enmity between social ele- 
ments which becomes ineffectual if they experience a common 
pressure: it then yields to external, if not internal, unification. 
But if the original aversion surpasses a certain limit, a common 
oppression has the opposite effect. This has two reasons. The 
first is that once there is a dominating resentment in a certain 
direction, any irritation, no matter from what source it may 
come, only intensifies the general irritation and, contrary to all 

The ^'Higher Tribunar 195 

rational expectation, flows into the already existing river bed 
and thereby enlarges it. The second, even more important reason 
is that common suffering, though pressing the suffering elements 
closer together, reveals all the more strikingly their inner dis- 
tance and irreconcilability, precisely by virtue of this enforced 
intimacy. Where unification, however it be created, cannot over- 
come a given antagonism, it does not preserve this antagonism 
at its former stage, but intensifies it. In all fields, contrast be- 
comes sharper and more conscious in the measure in which the 
parties concerned come closer together. 

Another, more obvious kind of repulsion among the subjects 
of a common ruler is created by means of jealousy. It constitutes 
the negative counterpart of the phenomenon mentioned before, 
namely, that common hatred is all the more powerful a bond 
if the object of the common hatred is at the same time the com- 
mon ruler. We now add that a love shared by a number of 
elements makes them, by means of jealousy, all the more de- 
cisively into mutual enemies if the common loved one is also 
the common ruler. A student of Turkish conditions reports 
that the children of different mothers in a harem are always 
hostile to one another. The reason for this is the jealousy with 
which their mothers observe the father's manifestations of love 
for his children who are not their own. Jealousy takes on a 
particular nuance as soon as it refers to the power which is 
superordinate to both parties. Under this condition, the woman 
winning the love of the disputed person triumphs over the rival 
in a special sense, and has a special success of her power. The 
subtlety of the fascination consists in the fact that she becomes 
master over the rival inasmuch as she becomes master over the 
rival's master. By means of the reciprocity within which the com- 
monness of the master allows this fascination to develop, it must 
lead to the highest intensification of jealousy. 

§ 5. The ^^Higher Tribunar 

I leave these dissociating consequences of subordination 
under an individual power in order to return to its unifying 
functions. I will only note how much more easily discords be- 
tween parties are removed if the parties stand under the same 

196 Subordination under an Individual 

higher power than if each of them is entirely independent. How 
many conflicts which were the ruin of both the Greek and Italian 
city states would not have had this destructive consequence if 
a central power, if some ultimate tribunal, had ruled over them 
in commonl Where there is no such power, the conflict among 
the elements has the fatal tendency to be fought out only in 
face-to-face battle between the power quanta. In the most general 
terms, we have to do here with the concept of '‘higher tribunal.’' ^ 
In varying forms, its operation extends through almost all of 
human collective life. The question whether or not a given 
society has a “higher tribunal” concerns a formal sociological 
characteristic of first-rank importance. The “higher tribunal” 
does not have to be a ruler in the ordinary or superficial sense 
of the word. For instance, above the obligations and contro- 
versies which are based on interests, instincts, and feelings, there 
is always a “higher tribunal,” namely the realm of the intellec- 
tual, with its particular contents or representatives. This tribu- 
nal may make one-sided or inadequate decisions, and they may or 
may not be obeyed. But just as above the contradictory contents 
of our conceptions, logic remains the higher tribunal even where 
we think non-logically, so in the same fashion, in a group that 
is composed of many elements, the most intelligent individual 
remains the higher tribunal in spite of the fact that in particular 
cases it is rather the person of strong will or warm feeling that 
may succeed in pacifying conflicts among the members. Never- 
theless, the specific character of the “higher tribunal” to which 
one appeals for decisions or whose interference one accepts be- 
cause it is felt to be legitimate, is typically on the side of intel- 
lectuality alone. 

Another mode of unifying divergent parties, which is par- 
ticularly favored if there exists a dominating “tribunal,” is the 
following. Where it seems impossible to unify elements who 
are either in conflict or remain indifferent and alien toward one 
another — where they cannot be unified on the basis of the 
qualities they have — the unification can sometimes be brought 
about by so transforming the elements that they become adapted 
to a new situation which permits harmony, or by causing them 

^ '*Hdhere Instant’*: higher tribunal or court, but not necessarily in the tech- 
nical, legal sense. — ^Tr. 

Domination and Leveling 197 

to acquire new qualities which make their unification possible. 
The removal of ill-humor, the stimulation of mutual interest, 
the creation of thoroughly common features, can often be 
achieved (whether among children at play or among religious 
or political parties) by adding to the existing dissociative or 
indifferent intentions or delimitations of the elements some 
new trait which serves as a point of contact and, thus, reveals 
that even what was hitherto divergent can in fact be reconciled. 
Furthermore, features that cannot be directly unified often 
show the possibility of an indirect reconciliation if they can be 
developed further or can be augmented by a new element, and 
thus are placed upon a new and common basis. For instance, 
the homogeneity of the Gallic Provinces was decisively pro- 
moted when all of them in common became Latinized by Rome. 
Obviously, it is precisely this mode of unification which needs 
the ‘‘higher tribunal.§ ** Only a power which stands above the 
parties and in some manner dominates them can, more or less 
easily, give each of them interests and regulations which place 
them on a common basis. If left to themselves, they would 
perhaps never have found them; or their obstinacy, pride, and 
perseverance in the conflict would have prevented them from 
developing common interests. The Christian religion is praised 
for making its adherents “peaceful.** The sociological reason 
for this is very probably the feeling that all beings alike are 
subordinate to the divine principle. The faithful Christian 
is convinced that above him and above each of his adversaries, 
whether Christian or not, there exists this “highest tribunal** — 
and this frees him from the temptation to measure his strength 
by violence. It is precisely because he stands immeasurably high 
above each individual Christian that the Christian God can 
be a bond among very large circles, all of which, by definition, 
are included in his “peace.** At any given moment, each of 
them, along with every other, has a “higher tribunal** in God. 

§ 6. Domination and Leveling 

Unification through common subordination occurs in two 
different forms: by means of leveling and by means of grada- 
tion. Insofar as a number of people are equally subject to one 

198 Subordination under an Individual 

individual, they are themselves equal. The correlation between 
despotism and equalization has long been recognized. This 
correlation occurs not only in the sense that the despot himself 
tries to level his subjects (a point which will be discussed 
presently), but also in the reverse sense that strongly developed 
leveling easily leads to despotism. This is not true, however, 
of every kind of ‘leveling/* In calling the Sicilian cities “filled 
with motley masses,** Alcibiades wished to characterize them as 
an easy prey for the conqueror. And, in fact, a homogeneous 
citizenry offers a more successful resistance to tyranny than a 
citizenry composed of highly divergent and hence unconnected 
elements. The leveling most welcome to despotism, therefore, 
is that of differences in rank, not in character. A society homo- 
geneous in character and tendency, but organized in several 
rank orders, resists despotism strongly, while a society in which 
numerous kinds of characters exist side by side with organically 
inarticulate equality, resists it only slightly. 

The ruler*s chief motive in equalizing hierarchical differ- 
ences derives from the fact that relations of strong superordina- 
tion and subordination among his subjects actually and psycho- 
logically compete with his own superordination. Besides, too 
great an oppression of certain classes by others is as dangerous 
to despotism as is the too great power of these oppressing classes. 
For, a revolt of the suppressed against the oppressive class, which 
is intermediate between them and the despot, can easily be 
directed against the highest power itself, as if the movement 
rolled on merely by following its own inertia — unless the despot 
himself leads the movement, or at least supports it. Oriental 
despots, therefore, have tried to prevent the formation of 
aristocracies — as, for instance, the Turkish Sultan, who thus 
preserved his radical, entirely un-mediated eminence over the 
totality of his subjects. Every power in the state, of whatever 
description, derived from him and returned to him with the 
death of its owner; and thus there never developed an aristoc- 
racy of any significance. The absolute sublimity of the sovereign 
and the leveling of the subjects were realized as correlated 

This tendency is also reflected in the fact that despots only 
love servants of average talent, as has been noted particularly 

Domination and Leveling 199 

of Napoleon I. In a similar fashion, when it was suggested to 
an outstanding German official that he transfer to another 
branch of the government, the ruling prince is supposed to 
have asked his minister: “Is the man indispensable to us?” 
“Entirely so, Your Highness.” “Then we shall let him go. I can- 
not use indispensable servants.” Yet, despotism does not seek 
particularly inferior servants; and, in this, it shows its inner 
relation to leveling. Tacitus says in regard to the tendency of 
Tiberius to employ mediocre officials: “ex optimis periculum 
sibij a pessimis dedecus publicum metuebat” ® Quite charac- 
teristically, where one-man rule does not have the character of 
despotism, this tendency to employ inferior servants is at once 
much weaker, if indeed it does not yield to its opposite. Thus, 
Bismarck said of William I that the emperor not only accepted 
a respected and powerful servant, but even felt himself elevated 
by this fact. 

Where the ruler does not categorically prevent the develop- 
ment of intermediate powers (as in the Sultan’s case), he often 
tries to create a relative leveling: he favors the efforts of the 
lower classes which are directed toward legal equality with these 
intermediate powers. Medieval and recent history offers many 
examples of this. Ever since Norman times, English royalty has 
vigorously practiced the correlation between its own omnipo- 
tence and the legal equality of its subjects. By forcing every 
lower vassal to swear feudal duty directly to himself, William 
the Conqueror broke the bond which, in England as on the 
Continent, had existed between the directly enfeoffed aristocracy 
and the lower vassals. This measure prevented the great crown 
fiefs from developing into sovereignties, and, on the other hand, 
it laid down the bases of a uniform legislation for all classes. 
The English kings of the eleventh and twelfth centuries based 
their extraordinary power upon the regularity with which free 
property, without any exceptions, was subject to military, court, 
police, and tax duty. The Roman Empire shows the same form. 
The Republic had become incapable of existence because the 
legal and actual superiority of the city of Rome over Italy and 
the Provinces could no longer be maintained. Only the Empire 

5 “From the best, he feared danger to himself; from the worst, public shame.“ 
— Tr. 

200 Subordination under an Individual 

resurrected the balance; it did so by making the Romans as 
powerless as were the peoples whom they had subjugated. In this 
fashion, an impartial legislation for all citizens, a legal leveling, 
was made possible; and its correlate was the absolute exaltation 
and uniqueness of the ruler. 

It need hardly be mentioned that “leveling” must always be 
understood here as a wholly relative tendency with very limited 
possibilities of realization. A basic science of the forms of society 
must present concepts and concept complexes in a purity and 
abstract completeness which are never shown by the historical 
realizations of their contents. Yet sociological understanding 
aims at grasping the fundamental concept of sociation in its 
particular significances and formations; it aims at analyzing 
phenomenal complexes into their minute factors to the point 
of approaching inductive regularities. It can do so only 
through the auxiliary construction of so-to-speak absolute lines 
and figures which in actual social life are found only as be- 
ginnings and fragments, as partial realizations that are con- 
stantly interrupted and modified. In every single social-historical 
configuration, there operates a number of reciprocities among 
the elements, which can probably never be wholly enumerated. 
We can no more dissolve its form, as it is given, into its com- 
ponent factors, and then recombine these factors, than we can 
create out of the ideal figures of our geometry the absolutely 
identical shape of any piece of matter whatever — in spite of the 
fact that in principle both must be possible by means of dif- 
ferentiating and combining scientific constructs. Sociological 
cognition so transforms historical phenomena that their unity 
is decomposed into a number of concepts and syntheses which 
are defined in a purely one-sided manner and which run, as it 
were, in a straight line. As a rule, one of these catches the main 
characteristic of the historical phenomenon under analysis. By 
bending and limiting each other mutually, all of them together 
project its image with increasing exactness upon the new plane 
of abstraction. The Sultan’s reign over subjects who have no 
rights; that of the English king over a people that already a 
hundred and fifty years after William the Conqueror coura- 
geously rose against King John; that of the Roman Emperor 
who, properly speaking, was only the overseer of the more or 

Domination and Leveling 201 

less autonomous communities which made up the Empire: all 
these one-man rules are as profoundly different from one an- 
other as are the corresponding “levelings** of their subjects. 
And yet, the motive of this correlation operates alike in all of 
them; the immense differences among the immediate material 
phenomena leaves room for the ideal line, so to speak, with 
which this correlation is traced into them. In its purity and 
regularity, however, this correlation is a scientificr abstract 

The same tendency of domination by means of leveling is 
sometimes disguised by phenomena which on the surface look 
like the very opposite of those thus far considered. Philip the 
Good of Burgundy behaved very typically when he aimed at 
suppressing the freedom of the Dutch cities but, at the same 
time, bestowed very comprehensive privileges upon many in- 
dividual corporations. These legal differences were created 
exclusively by the arbitrary pleasure of the ruler. They thus 
marked all the more distinctly the common, unalterable sub- 
ordination of his subjects. In the particular case mentioned, 
this is excellently shown by the fact that, although the privileges 
were very extensive in terms of their content, they were of only 
a short duration: the legal advantage was thus never separated 
from the source from which it came. The privilege, seemingly 
the very opposite of leveling, thus reveals itself as the intensifi- 
cation of leveling, which adopts it as the correlate of absolute 

Rule-by-one has innumerable times been reproached for 
the contradiction which is supposed to lie in the purely quan- 
titative disproportion between the one-ness of the ruler and 
the many-ness of the ruled. It has been accused of the undig- 
nified and unjust character of the ratio of what the two parties 
to the relationship invest in it. As a matter of fact, the resolu- 
tion of this contradiction reveals a very peculiar, basic socio- 
logical constellation, which has important consequences. The 
point is that the structure of a society in which only one person 
rules while the great mass lets itself be ruled, makes normative 
sense only by virtue of a specific circumstance: that the mass, 
the ruled element, injects only parts of all the personalities 
which compose it into the mutual relationship, whereas the 

202 Subordination under an Individual 

ruler contributes all of his personality. The ruler and the 
individual subject do not enter the relationship with the same 
quanta of their personalities. The ‘‘mass'' is formed through 
a process by which a great many individuals unite parts of their 
personalities — specific impulses, interests, forces — ^while what 
each personality really is, remains outside this common level. 
It does not enter the “mass"; it does not enter that which is 
actually ruled by the one individual. 

It need not be emphasized that this new ratio which balances 
the full personality quantum of the ruler with the many partial 
quanta of the ruled gains its quantitative form only as a sym- 
bolic makeshift expression. Personality itself is completely out- 
side any arithmetic concept. Therefore, when we speak of the 
“whole" personality, of its “unity," of a “part" of it, we intend 
to convey something qualitative and intimate, something which 
can be experienced only through intuition. We have no direct 
expression for it, so that these other expressions, taken as they 
are from a totally different order of things, are quite inade- 
quate — but, of course, they are nonetheless indispensable. The 
whole rulership relation between the one and the many — and 
evidently not only in the case of political domination — is based 
on this decomposition of personality. 

The application of this decomposition within the field of 
superordination and subordination is merely a special case of 
its significance for all interaction whatever. Even in regard to 
such a close union as marriage, it must be pointed out that one 
is never “wholly" married. Even in the best case, one is married 
only with part of one's personality, however great this part be — 
even as one is never wholly a citizen of a city, wholly an eco- 
nomic man, wholly a church member. 

This division within the individual — which is the basis for 
the subjugation of the many by the one — ^was already recognized 
by Grotius. Grotius countered the objection that the power of 
the ruler cannot be acquired by purchase since it concerns free 
men, by distinguishing between private and public subjection. 
In contrast to subjectio privata, subjectio publica does not 
eliminate sui juris esse.^ When a people is sold, the object of 
the sale are not the individuals but only jus eos regendi, qua 

« The autonomy (of the individual). — ^Tr. 

Domination and Leveling 203 

populus sunt [the right of ruling them, insofar as they are a 
people]. It is one of the highest tasks of political art — of church 
politics, family politics, politics in general — to learn to recognize 
and, as it were, chemically prepare, those sides of man with 
which he forms the more or less leveled ‘'mass*' and above which 
the ruler can tower at a height that is alike for all members of 
the mass. These he needs to distinguish from those other sides 
that must be left to the freedom of the individual — although 
it is only the conjunction of both which make up the whole per- 
sonality of the subject. 

Groups are characteristically different according to the pro- 
portion between the members* total personalities and those parts 
of their personalities with which they fuse in the ‘‘mass.** The 
measure of their governability depends on this difference in 
quanta. More precisely, a group can be dominated by one in- 
dividual the more easily and radically, the smaller the portion 
of the total personality that the member contributes to that 
mass which is the object of subordination. Where, on the other 
hand, the social unit covers so much of the component per- 
sonalities; where they are so closely interwoven with the group 
as was true of the inhabitants of the Greek city states or of the 
burghers of medieval cities, government-by-one becomes some- 
thing contradictory and impracticable. 

But this essentially simple, basic relationship is complicated 
by two factors. One is the magnitude or smallness of the sub- 
ordinate group, and the other is the differentiation of the indi- 
vidual personality. Other things being equal, the larger the 
group, the smaller is the range of ideas and interests, sentiments 
and other characteristics in which its members coincide and 
form a “mass.** Therefore, insofar as the domination of the 
members extends to their common features, the individual 
member bears it the more easily, the larger his group. Thus, in 
this respect, the essential nature of one-man rule is shown very 
clearly: the more there are of those over whom the one rules, 
the slighter is that portion of every individual which he 
dominates. But secondly, it is extremely important whether the 
individuals have, or do not have, a psychological structure suf- 
ficiently differentiated to separate, in their practice and in their 
feelings, the elements which lie within and without the sphere 

204 Subordination under an Individual 

of domination. This differentiation must coincide with the art 
of the ruler, noted earlier, with which he himself distinguishes 
those elements within each of his subordinates that are acces- 
sible to domination from those which are not. It is only when 
the two coincide that the contradiction between domination 
and freedom, the disproportionate preponderance of the one 
over the many, is resolved — at least approximately. If this is the 
case, individuality can freely develop even in despotically ruled 
groups. The formation of modern individuality began, in fact, 
in the despotisms of the Italian Renaissance. Here as in other 
cases, for instance, under Napoleon I, the ruler was interested 
in granting the greatest freedom to all those sides of the per- 
sonality in regard to which the individual does not belong to 
the ‘‘mass,'* which are, that is, removed from the area of political 

In very small groups, the closeness of fusion and the all- 
pervasive inner and outer solidarities among the members, again 
and again cut across these two types of personality aspects, and 
let them grow together, as it were, in a wrong way. It is under- 
standable that, in this case, government can very easily become 
an unbearable tyranny. Thus, the relation between parents 
and children becomes frequently most unsatisfactory because 
of this smallness of the group, often accompanied by the clumsi- 
ness of the persons involved. Parents often make the grave mis- 
take of imposing, in a very authoritarian fashion, a life schema 
upon their children which is supposed to be valid for every- 
body — even in those matters in which the children are irrecon- 
cilably individual. The same error is committed by the priest 
who, beyond the sphere within which he can unify his con- 
gregants, also wishes to dominate those spheres of their private 
lives in which, from the standpoint of the religious community, 
they are certainly differentiated as individuals. In all these 
cases, those parts of the character which are suited for “mass’* 
formation and whose subjugation, therefore, is easily borne 
as something legitimate, are not properly isolated. 

The leveling of the mass thus results from the separation 
and combination of those elements within each of its com- 
ponent individuals which can be subjected to the ruler. This 
leveling is of the greatest significance for the sociology of domi- 

Domination and Leveling 205 

nation \Herrschaft\. In conjunction with what has been said 
earlier, it explains why it is often easier to dominate a larger 
than a smaller group. This is true particularly if the group is 
made up of highly differentiated individuals: each new one of 
them further reduces the range of features common to all. If the 
group is composed of such personalities (other things being 
equal), the leveling plane of many is lower than that of few, 
and thus their governability is greater. Here lies the sociological 
basis of Hamilton’s remark, in the Federalist, that it is a great 
popular error to wish to increase the guaranties “against the 
government of a few” by augmenting the number of members 
of the parliament. Above a certain number, he continues, popu- 
lar representation may appear to be more democratic, but ac- 
tually is more oligarchical: “The machine may be enlarged, 
but the fewer will be the springs by which its motions are 
directed.” And a hundred years later, but in the same vein, one 
of the foremost students of Anglo-American party life pointed 
out that the higher a party leader rises in power and influence, 
the most strictly is he bound to perceive “by how few persons 
the world is governed.” 

Here, also, lies the deeper sociological significance of the 
close relation which exists between the law of a political unit 
and its ruler. The law which is valid for all is based on the 
points in which all coincide; these points lie beyond the purely 
individual life contents or forms of the members or, viewed 
differently, beyond the totality of the individual. Such super- 
individual elements of having and being, such interests and 
qualities, attain an objective, synthesizing form in law — in the 
same way in which they find their subjective form, or their 
correlate, in the ruler of the political unit. If this peculiar 
analysis and synthesis within the individual is the general basis 
of rule-by-one, it also explains that sometimes an astonishingly 
slight measure of excellence is sufficient to win dominance over 
a collectivity. It explains why the collectivity should subordinate 
itself with an ease which a qualitative comparison between the 
total personalities of the ruler and his subjects could not logi- 
cally justify. Yet where the differentiation of individuals, which 
is necessary for the domination of a mass, is lacking, the re- 
quirements for the quality of the ruler go beyond this modest 

206 Subordination under an Individual 

measure. Aristotle said that in his time legitimate monarchies 
could no longer arise; for now, he wrote, there are so many 
equally excellent personalities in every state that no one of 
them can claim such an advantage above all others. Evidently, 
the Greek citizen was so closely connected in his interests and 
feelings with the political whole, and had contributed his 
total personality to the general life in such a measure, that a 
factoring-out of his exclusively ‘‘politicaF' parts was no longer 
possible. He could not have withheld from them an essential 
part of his personality, as his private possession. If this is the 
situation, monarchy indeed presupposes for its inner legitima- 
tion that the ruler be superior to the total personality of every 
subject. On the other hand, this is a requirement of which 
there can be no question where the object of his domination 
is only the sum of factored-out, ‘‘mass-combined” parts of the 

§ 7. Domination and Downward Gradation 

In addition to this type of domination by one individual, 
whose correlate is the fundamental leveling of his subjects, 
there is a second type, in which the group takes on the form 
of a pyramid. The subordinates face the ruler in gradations 
of power. Layers whose volume becomes ever smaller and whose 
significance becomes ever greater lead from the lowest mass to 
the top of the pyramid. This group form can develop in two 
ways. It may originate in the full autocratic power of the ruler, 
who loses the content of this power and lets it glide downward, 
while its form and title continue to exist. In this process, the 
layers closest to him naturally retain more of his power than 
do the more remote ones. This gradual downward penetration 
of power must result in a continuity and gradation of super- 
ordinates and subordinates, unless other events and conditions 
interfere with this process and deform it. This, presumably, is 
the way in which social forms frequently originate in oriental 
states. The power of the highest echelons withers, either because 
it is internally untenable and does not preserve the proportion 
between submission and individual freedom which was em- 
phasized above, or because the personalities involved are too 

Domination and Downward Gradation 207 

indolent and too ignorant of the technique of government to 
maintain their power. 

The pyramidal form of society has a very different character 
when it originates in the intention of the ruler, so that it indi- 
cates no weakening of his power but, on the contrary, its exten- 
sion and consolidation. Here, therefore, the power quantum of 
domination is not distributed among the lower layers; rather, 
these layers are being organized with respect to one another in 
degrees of power and position. The total quantum of subordina- 
tion remains, as it were, the same as in the case of leveling; it 
only adopts another form, that of inequality among the indi- 
viduals who must bear it. Nevertheless, in appearance, the 
elements here approach the ruler in the measure of their relative 
ranks. This can result in a great solidity of the total structure: 
the forces which support its weight flow more securely and in 
a more concentrated form toward its apex than they do if they 
are all on one level. The superior significance of the prince and, 
more generally, of the individual who rates highest in any given 
group, transcends him and is transferred to the others in the 
measure in which they are close to him; and this is no 
diminution of his superiority, but a heightening of it. 

During the nearly English period of the Normans, the King 
had no permanent, obligatory council whatever. But in more 
important cases, in consequence of the very dignity and sig- 
nificance of his regime, he did seek the advice of a consilium 
baronum. That is, the dignity which seems to have attained 
its highest degree by being concentrated in his personality, 
needed radiation and enlargement nevertheless, as if it did not 
find enough room in a single person, although it was only the 
King’s own dignity. He called others in to cooperate with 
him; these others, who helped him carry his power and sig- 
nificance and thus actually shared them somehow, reflected them 
back upon him in a fashion which, thus, was all the more con- 
centrated and effective. Even earlier we find that the attendant 
of the Anglo-Saxon king has an especially high wergild and 
a particularly high importance as the king’s cojuror; and that 
his groom and the man in whose house he takes a drink are 
elevated above the mass by special legal protection. These 
measures do not simply belong to the prerogative of the king; 

208 Subordination under an Individual 

instead, the graded descent of the prerogative, which, viewed 
from below, is an ascent, at the same time greatly supports 
this prerogative itself. By being shared, the king’s superiority 
becomes more, not less. Furthermore, in a system of such fine 
gradations, the ruler has at his disposal rewards and distinc- 
tions in the form of rank promotions, which cost him nothing 
but which bind the promoted individuals all the more closely 
to him. This tendency seems to have directly determined the 
great number of social echelons created by the Roman Em- 
pire — an almost continuous scale, from the slaves and the 
humilioreSj through the ordinary freemen, to the senators. 

In this respect, aristocracy is formally identical with royalty: 
it, too, uses a many-leveled organization of its subjects. As late 
as the middle of the eighteenth century, for instance, there 
were numerous gradations of rights among the citizens of 
Geneva, according to whether they were citoyens, bourgeois, 
habitants, natifs, or sujets. Inasmuch as the largest possible num- 
ber of people have still some others below them, all but the 
lowest are interested in the maintenance of the existing order. 
In such cases, however, there often is less a gradation of real 
power than a predominantly ideal ranking by titles and posi- 
tions. Yet the extent to which even this can develop very con- 
siderable consequences is perhaps most strikingly shown by the 
subtle gradations among the dozens of classes in the Indian caste 
system. Even if such a pyramid built up of honors and social 
advantages culminates in the ruler, it does not always coincide, 
by any means, with the formally identical structure of graded, 
real power positions, which may coexist along with it. 

The structure of a power pyramid always suffers from the 
basic difficulty that the irrational and fluctuating qualities of 
the persons are never entirely congruent with the delimitations 
of the various positions which are pre-designed in it with almost 
logical exactness. This formal difficulty is characteristic of all 
rank orders that are pre-shaped according to a given scheme. 
It is a problem not only of organizations headed by a personal 
ruler, but also of socialist proposals with their confidence that 
certain institutions will actually bring the individuals who de- 
serve leading and superordinate positions into these positions. 
In both cases, there is this basic incommensurability between 

Domination and Upward Gradation 209 

the schematism of the positions and the intrinsically variable 
nature of man, which never precisely fits conceptually fixed 

But there is a further difficulty, namely, that of recognizing 
the personality suited for a given position. The main reason for 
this is that, whether or not somebody deserves a certain power 
position is, innumerable times, revealed only once he occupies 
it. Every employment of a person for exercising a new power or 
function always involves a risk, always remains an experiment, 
which may succeed or fail, even when the employment follows 
the most thorough examination and the most indisputable ante- 
cedents. This risk is woven into the deepest, most precious 
aspects of human nature. Our very relationship to the world 
and to life forces us to make decisions beforehand; to bring 
about, that is, through our decision, those circumstances which 
should properly have been brought about and known in order 
to enable us to make the decision reasonably and securely. In 
the development of social power scales, this general, a priori 
difficulty of all human action emerges, evidently, with particular 
force when these scales do not grow, so to speak, organically 
out of the individual’s own forces and the natural conditions 
of the society, .but are spontaneously constructed by a ruling 
personality. To be sure, historically this case probably never 
exists in absolute purity — at most, it finds a parallel in the 
socialist utopias mentioned above. But it shows its characteris- 
tics and complications even where, in reality, it can be observed 
only in rudimentary and mixed forms. 

§ 8. Domination and U pward Gradation 

The other way in which a graduated scale of power extend- 
ing to the highest rung can develop runs in the opposite direc- 
tion. Some elements of a collectivity which in the beginning is 
composed of relatively equal members, gain greater significance; 
and out of the totality of these, some other, particularly power- 
ful individuals, again become differentiated, and so forth; until 
the development terminates in one or a few supreme heads. 
Here the pyramid of superordination and subordinations is 
built from below. This process needs no examples since it occurs 

210 Subordination under an Individual 

everywhere, even though with a variety of rhythms. It is perhaps 
most purely exemplified in the fields of economics and politics, 
but is also very notable in the area of intellectual culture, in 
school classes, in the development of attitudes toward life, 
in aesthetic respects, and in the initial growth of military 

§ 9 . Mixture of Downward and U pward Gradation 

The two ways in which a graduated superordination and 
subordination of groups can develop may, in actuality, be 
mixed. The classical example of this is the medieval feudal 
state. As long as the full citizen, whether Greek, Roman, or old- 
Germanic, was not subordinated to an individual, he enjoyed 
full equality with all other citizens; and, on the other hand, he 
closed himself thoroughly against all who stood below him. This 
characteristic social form passed through numerous historical 
links, until it found, in feudalism, its equally characteristic 
opposite. Feudalism fills the chasm between freedom and un- 
freedom by a rank order of statuses. “Service,” servitium^ tied 
all members of the realm to one another and to the king. The 
king gave of his property in the same way in which his great 
subjects, in their turn, enfeoffed the vassals, their subordinates, 
with land, so that a graded order of positions, possessions, and 
obligations developed. But this same result was reached by the 
social process which started from the opposite end. The inter- 
mediate layers developed not only through power distribution 
from the top but also through accumulation from below. 
Originally free but small land owners gave their land to more 
powerful lords in order to receive it back as feudal tenures. 
At the same time, these landlords more and more increased their 
power, against which the weakened royalty could not stand up, 
and in those of their representatives that had advanced highest 
toward the top, themselves attained royal power. 

The form of such a pyramid gives every one of its elements 
a twofold position between the lowest and the highest layers. 
Everybody is superordinate and everybody is subordinate; he 
is dependent on the top and, at the same time, is independent 
insofar as others are dependent upon him. This sociological am- 

Mixture of Downward and Upward Gradation 211 

biguity of feudalism very strongly accentuated its dual genesis 
and was accentuated by it — the genesis through giving from 
above and through accumulation from below. The ambiguity, 
perhaps, accounts for the contradictory consequences of feu- 
dalism. According to whether consciousness and practice em- 
phasized the independence or the dependence of the inter- 
mediate layers, feudalism tended to hollow out the power of the 
supreme ruler, as it did in Germany, or bestowed an all- 
pervasive power upon the crown, as in England. 

Gradation belongs among those forms of group life and 
organization which are based upon a quantitative viewpoint. 
It is therefore more or less mechanical, and historically precedes 
properly organic groupings, which are based on qualitative dif- 
ferences among individuals. Nevertheless, the quantitative 
foundation is not simply replaced by the qualitative principle, 
but continues to exist side by side and in synthesis with it. 
Here must be noted, above all, the division of the group into 
subgroups. The social role of subgroups is rooted in their 
numerical equality or (at least) in their numerical determina- 
tion, as, for instance, in the case of division by Hundred. 
Here, further, belongs the allocation of social position merely 
according to property owned. Finally, here belongs group for- 
mation by means of fixed degrees, as it is shown, above all, in 
feudalism, in ecclesiastical hierarchy, in bureaucracy, and in 
the army. Already the first example of this form, feudalism, sug- 
gests its peculiar objectivity and axiomatic character. It is 
through this that feudalism, as it developed since the beginnings 
of the Germanic Middle Ages, broke through the old orders of 
free and unfree, noble and plebeian, which were based on dif- 
ferences in the individual's relation to the group. Above these 
old orders, there arose a generally valid principle, “service," that 
is, the objective necessity of everybody serving, in some fashion, 
a superior individual; and the only difference admitted was 
the question of who the superior was and under what conditions 
he was served. The resultant, essentially quantitative gradation 
of positions was often quite independent of the earlier group 
positions of the individuals. 

It is, of course, not necessary that this organization ascend 
to a head which is highest in the absolute sense of the word. 

212 Subordination under an Individual 

Its formal nature is revealed, actually, by every group, no matter 
how the group as a whole be characterized. Already Roman 
slavery was most minutely graduated in this sense, from the 
villicus and procurator, who independently directed whole 
branches of production in the great slave industries, through 
all kinds of classifications, down to the foreman of ten workers. 
Such a form of organization has a great sensory visibility, as it 
were. Since every member of it is both superordinated and sub- 
ordinated, and thus is fixed in two directions, the organization 
gives him a definite, sociological determination of his life feel- 
ing, and this feeling, as closeness and solidity of cohesion, is 
bound to project itself upon the whole group. For this reason, 
despotic or reactionary movements, for fear of unifications 
among their subjects, sometimes persecute hierarchically or- 
ganized unifications with particular zeal. The decree issued in 
1831 by the reactionary English Ministry goes into peculiar 
details which can be understood only if the specific socializing 
power of super-subordination is appreciated. The decree pro- 
hibited all associations “composed of separate bodies, with 
various divisions and subdivisions, under leaders with a grada- 
tion of rank and authority, and distinguished by certain badges, 
and subject to the general control and direction of a superior 
council. “ 

It should be noted that this form must be sharply dis- 
tinguished from another, in which superordination and sub- 
ordination are simultaneous. In this case, an individual is super- 
ordinate on one scale or in one respect, but is subordinate in 
another. This arrangement has more of an individual and 
qualitative character. It is usually a combination which derives 
from the particular disposition or fate of the individual. Super- 
ordination and subordination on one and the same scale, on the 
other hand, is much more objectively pre-formed and, for this 
reason, is a more unambiguous and definite sociological posi- 
tion. The fact that this form, too, is of great cohesive value for 
the social scale itself, as I noted a moment ago, is related to 
the circumstance that it makes the individual’s rise in the scale 
a “given” aim for his endeavor. In Freemasonry, for instance, 
this motivation, as a purely formal one, has been used for pre- 
serving the “degrees.” Already the “apprentice” learns all essen- 

Strength and Perserverance of Domination by One 213 

tials of the objective knowledge (here, ritual knowledge) of the 
“journeyman** and “master** degrees. But it is pointed out that 
these stages give the order a certain elasticity and animation 
through the stimulus of novelty, and that they promote the 
endeavor of the novice. 

§ 10 . Strength and Perseverance of Domination by One 

All sociological structures discussed thus far are equally 
determined by the superordination of one person, no matter 
how different the contents of the groups concerned. But evi- 
dently, such structures can also emerge in case of subordination 
under a number of individuals, as I have already indicated. If 
these superordinate individuals are coordinated with one an- 
other, the question whether the superordinate position of one 
is, incidentally, occupied by a plurality of persons, is not de- 
cisive, and is therefore sociologically irrelevant. It should be 
emphasized, however, that domination by one is the primary 
type and form of the relationship of subordination in general. 
This fundamental position of it within the whole complex of 
super-subordination makes it understandable that, within its 
sphere, it may legitimately give room to other kinds of orders, 
oligarchical and republican, and not only in the political sense 
of these terms. It makes it understandable that the sphere domi- 
nated by the monarch may very well include secondary struc- 
tures of these other types, while, where the latter are the supreme 
and most comprehensive structures, monarchy can find only a 
small or illegitimate niche. 

Monarchy has such a sensuous appeal, is so impressive, that 
it lives forth even in those constitutions that originated as a 
reaction to it and were designed as instruments of its abolition. 
It has been said of the American President, as well as of the 
Athenian Archon and the Roman Consul, that, with certain limi- 
tations, they are after all only the heirs of the royal powers of 
which the kings were deprived through the various revolutions. 
Some Americans themselves tell us that their freedom consists 
only in the alternation of government by the two great parties, 
each of which exerts a tyranny in an entirely monarchical man- 
ner. The attempt, furthermore, has been made to show that 

214 Subordination under an Individual 

the democracy of the French revolution is nothing but royalty 
turned upside down, and equipped with the same qualities. 
Rousseau’s ''volont^ genirale” to which, he teaches, every- 
body must submit without resistance, has entirely the character 
of the absolute monarch. And Proudhon notes that a parlia- 
ment which is the result of universal suffrage is not distinguish- 
able from him. The popular representative, he argues, is 
infallible, inviolable, irresponsible — and the monarch, essen- 
tially, is no more than this. The monarchical principle, he con- 
tinues, is as lively and complete in a parliament as in a legiti- 
mate king. As a matter of fact, in the relations to a parliament, 
the phenomenon of flattery is not absent, although this, above 
all others, seems to be specifically reserved for relations to a 
single individual. 

It is quite characteristic that a formal relationship among 
group elements continues to prevail even after a change of 
their whole sociological tendency seems to make this impossible. 
It is the peculiar strength of domination by one person to sur- 
vive its own death, as it were — by transferring its own color to 
structures whose very significance is the negation of such domi- 
nation. This is one of the most striking cases which illustrate 
the autonomous life of sociological forms. By virtue of it, they 
not only can absorb materially different contents, but can also 
inject into changed forms the very spirit that is the opposite 
of these forms. The formal significance of domination by one 
is so great that it is explicitly preserved where its content is 
negated, and precisely because it is negated. The dogedom of 
Venice lost more and more of its power until eventually, for 
all practical purposes, it possessed none whatever. In spite of 
this, it was preserved most anxiously in order to make develop- 
ments impossible which might have brought a real ruler upon 
the throne. The process here is not for the opposition to destroy 
domination by one, in an effort to consolidate itself in this 
same form, but to preserve it, in order to prevent its real con- 
solidation. The two, actually contradictory processes attest alike 
to the formal strength of this form of domination. 

As a matter of fact, the contrasts which monarchy forces 
together are contained in one and the same phenomenon. 
Monarchy is interested in the monarchic institution even where 

Strength and Perseverance of Domination by One 215 

this institution lies outside the immediate influence sphere of 
the monarch. The experience that all realizations of a certain 
social form, however divergent, support one another and, as it 
were, mutually guarantee the form they realize, seems to apply 
to very different conditions of domination, most decisively to 
aristocracy and monarchy. For this reason, a monarchy some- 
times has to pay heavily if, for certain political reasons, it 
weakens the monarchic principle in another country. Mazarin’s 
regime met with almost rebellious resistance from both people 
and parliament. This resistance has been explained in terms of 
the fact that French politics had supported rebellions in neigh- 
boring countries against their governments. In this way, the 
explanation continues, the monarchic principle received a blow 
which acted back on the originator, who had thought he could 
safeguard his interest by means of those rebellions. Inversely, 
when Cromwell refused the title of king, the Royalists were sad- 
dened. For, however unbearable the thought must have been to 
them of seeing the murderer of the king on the throne, they 
would, nevertheless, have greeted the mere fact that once more 
there was a king as preparing the way for the Restoration. 

But the effect of monarchic sentiment goes beyond such 
utilitarian justifications of expanding the monarchy on the 
grounds of anticipated consequences. In regard to certain phe- 
nomena, the monarchic sentiment even has an effect which is 
to the personal disadvantage of those who harbor it. When, 
under the regime of Louis XIV, the Portuguese rebellion 
against Spain broke out, a rebellion which must have been en- 
tirely desirable to the King of France, he nevertheless remarked: 
“However bad a prince may be, the rebellion of his subjects is 
always infinitely criminal.” And Bismarck tells us that William I 
felt an “instinctive, monarchic disinclination” toward Bennig- 
sen and his earlier activity in Hanover. For, irrespective of what 
Bennigsen and his party (Bismarck notes) had done for the 
Prussianization of Hanover, this behavior of a subject toward 
his original (Guelphic) dynasty was contrary to William's senti- 
ments as a ruler. The inner strength of monarchy is great enough 
to include in its pervasive sympathy even its enemy and, on the 
other hand, very deeply to oppose its friend, as if he were an 
adversary, once he puts himself in opposition to any king what- 

216 Subordination under an Individual 

ever, although, personally, this opposition may be very useful 
to a particular monarch. 

§ 11 . Subordination of the Group to a Member or 
to an Outsider 

Finally, features of a kind not yet touched upon at all emerge, 
if between superordinates and subordinates there exists, in some 
respect, equality or inequality, closeness or distance, which be- 
comes problematical. An essential trait of the sociological form 
of a group is its preference for subordination to a stranger or 
to somebody from its own midst; its conception of the expe- 
diency and dignity of the one or the other kind of subordination. 
In Germany, medieval feudal barons had originally the right to 
nominate whatever judges and leaders from the outside they 
chose to call to their manors. Eventually, however, the conces- 
sion was often made to the manor that officials had to be taken 
from among the bondsmen. In exactly the opposite sense, it was 
considered a particularly important assurance which the Count 
of Flanders made to his '‘beloved jurors and burghers of Ghent” 
in 1228, an assurance to the effect that the judge and executive 
officer to be appointed by him, as well as their subalterns, could 
not be chosen from Ghent and could not be married to local 

The difference between these two cases, of course, has utili- 
tarian reasons: the stranger is more impartial; the member is 
more understanding. The first reason evidently was decisive for 
the request of the Ghent citizens; for the same reason, as has 
already been mentioned, Italian cities often chose their judges 
from other cities and thus secured themselves against the in- 
fluence of family connections and inner factions upon the legal 
system. It was the same motive which moved such clever rulers 
as Louis XI and Mathias Corvinus to take, if possible, their 
highest officials from abroad, or from the lower classes. As late 
as in the nineteenth century, Bentham suggested another utili- 
tarian consideration of the fact that foreigners are often the best 
state officials: they are watched with more suspicion than any- 
body else. 

The preference for more closely related or similar individ- 

Subordination of the Group to a Member 217 

uals strikes one as less paradoxical. But it may lead to a pecu- 
liarly mechanical conception of the axiom of similia similibus. 
This is reported of an ancient Libyan tribe, and recently of the 
Ashanti, where the king rules over the men, and the queen — 
who is his sister — over the women. I have already emphasized 
the cohesion of the group as the result of its subordination to 
one of its members. It is exactly this cohesion which is confirmed 
by the phenomenon of the central power that seeks to break 
through the autonomous jurisdiction of subgroups. The idea 
that one's local community is one’s legitimate judge was still 
widely diffused in fourteenth-century England. But Richard II 
decreed that nobody could be a judge of assize or of “gaol de- 
livery’’ in his own county. In this case, the correlate of group 
cohesion was the freedom of religion. Likewise, during the decay 
of Anglo-Saxon royalty, the decision by associates or peers was 
highly esteemed as a defense against the arbitrariness of royal 
and princely constables. And the severely burdened feudal 
peasant jealously held on to this arrangement as to his last pos- 
session which gave content and value to the idea of freedom 
as an individual right. 

Thus, certainly, rational grounds of objective expediency 
determine the choice of subordination under the fellow member 
or under the stranger. Yet the motives of this choice are not 
exhausted under the category of expediency. There are also 
other motives, more instinctive and emotional, as well as more 
abstract and indirect. These, in fact, are bound to exist because 
rational grounds alone may be as much in favor of the one as 
of the other of the two choices. The greater understanding of 
the fellow member and the greater objectivity of the outsider 
may often balance one another, and, therefore, another criterion 
is needed for deciding between the two. We here encounter the 
phychological antinomy that, on the one hand, we are attracted 
by what is like us, and, on the other, by what is unlike us. This 
antinomy is extremely important for sociological formation in 
general. The question regarding the cases and spheres in which 
the one or the other becomes effective, and the question regard- 
ing the tendency toward which the whole personality leans, 
seem to belong to the individual’s absolutely primary charac- 
teristics which inhere in his very nature. The contrasting ele- 

218 Subordination under an Individual 

ment complements us; the similar element strengthens us. 
Contrast excites and stimulates; similarity reassures. Both, 
though by very different means, give us the feeling that our 
particular existence is legitimate. But where we feel that the 
one is appropriate in regard to a particular phenomenon, the 
other repels us. Contrast then appears hostile, while similarity 
bores us. Contrast presents us with too high a challenge; simi- 
larity, with too low a task. It is difficult in regard to either to find 
a tenable position: there, because we have no points of contact 
and comparison; here, because we feel that what is similar to 
us, or, what is worse, that we ourselves, are superfluous. 

Essentially, the inner variety of our connections with an 
individual (but also with a group) is based upon the fact that 
these connections present us with a number of aspects with 
which we have to establish a relationship. In us, these traits cor- 
respond partly with like features, partly with heterogeneous 
ones, and both correspondences make attraction as well as re- 
pulsion possible. In their play and counter-play and in their 
combinations, the total relationship takes its course. The essen- 
tial affinity of another individual, for instance, may release in 
us sympathetic feelings in one respect, and antipathetic feelings 
in another. A social power, therefore, favors similar powers in 
its own province not only because of the natural sympathy for 
ideal affinities, but because the strengthening of the principle 
common to all is necessarily beneficial to it, too. On the other 
hand, however, jealousy, competition, and the desire to be the 
only representative of the principle have the opposite effect. 
This is very notable in the relation between monarchy and 
nobility. The hereditary principle of nobility is intimately shared 
by monarchy. For this reason, monarchy sides with nobility, is 
supported by it, and hence favors it. Often, however, it cannot 
tolerate a class which is privileged by heredity, that is, in its 
own right, to exist side by side with it; it necessarily wishes for 
every individual to receive its privileges specifically from mon- 
archy itself. Originally, the Roman Empire favored senatorial 
nobility and made it hereditary. But after Diocletian, senatorial 
nobility was overshadowed by office nobility in which each office 
holder attained a high post only through personal promotion. 
Whether in such cases the attraction or the repulsion of the 

Subordination of the Group to a Member 219 

similar element remains predominant, is a question evidently 
decided, not by utilitarian factors alone, but also by the deeper 
psychological readiness to value the like or else the unlike. 

From the very general type of this sociological problem de- 
rives the specific problem here discussed. Innumerable times 
it is merely a sentiment, that cannot be rationalized, which de- 
cides whether one feels more humiliated by subordination to a 
closely related or to a more distant party. All medieval social 
instincts and life feelings are revealed by the fact that, when in 
the thirteenth century the guilds were endowed with public 
power, they demanded, at the same time, that all workers of the 
same craft be subordinated to them. The idea was that it would 
be unthinkable for a craft tribunal to judge somebody who was 
not himself a member of the judging court. The very opposite 
feeling, which can just as little be reduced to any particular 
utilities, moved some Australian hordes not to choose their 
chiefs by themselves, but to have them chosen for them by the 
leaders of adjacent tribes. In a similar fashion, some nature peo- 
ples do not manufacture their own currency but import it from 
the outside, so that occasionally we find a sort of industry which 
produces monetary symbols (shells, etc.) for export to other 
places where they are used as money. 

In general, and reserving many modifications, we can say 
that the lower a group is as a whole and the more, therefore, 
every member of it is accustomed to subordination, the less will 
the group allow one of its members to rule it. And, inversely, the 
higher a group is as a whole, the more likely is it that it sub- 
ordinates itself only to one of its peers. In the first case, domina- 
tion by the member, the like person, is difficult because every- 
body is low; in the second case, it is easier because everybody 
stands high. The English House of Lords exhibits the most 
extreme intensification of this feeling. Not only did every Peer 
recognize it as his only judge, but once, in 1.330, the House ex- 
pressly rebutted the insinuation that it might adjudge people 
other than the Peers. Here the tendency to have oneself judged 
only by one’s like is so decisive that it has a sort of inverse effect. 
In a logically false, but psychologically both profound and un- 
derstandable fashion, the Peers argued that since the like of 

220 Subordination under an Individual 

them were judged only by themselves, it followed that everybody 
they judged became, so to speak, the like of them. 

In the last example, a decisive relationship of subordination, 
namely, the relation of the judged to his judge, is, in a certain 
sense, conceived as a coordinate relationship. But sometimes 
we find the reverse: that coordination is conceived as subordina- 
tion. Here, again, is the dualism of reasons which can be indi- 
cated, and of dark instincts — and the two may be separated or 
fused. The rights of the medieval burgher were below those of 
the nobility, but above those of the peasant. Occasionally, the 
burgher rejected the idea of general legal equality because he 
feared that equalization would deprive him of more (in favor 
of the peasant) than it would give him (in his relation to the 
nobility). More than once we meet with this sociological type: 
an intermediate stratum can obtain its elevation to the level of 
a higher stratum only at the expense of permitting a lower 
stratum to become coordinate with itself; but it feels that this 
coordination is so degrading that it gives up that elevation for 
which it would have to pay such a stiff price. Thus, although 
the Creoles of Spanish America were violently jealous of Euro- 
pean-born Spaniards, their contempt for Mulattoes, Mestizoes, 
Negroes, and Indians was even greater. In order to become the 
equals of the Spaniards they would have had to allow these other 
groups to become coordinate with themselves; but their racial 
feeling would have made this coordination such a degradation 
that, instead, they gave up their equality with the Spaniards. 
This formal combination is expressed even more abstractly or 
instinctively in a statement by H. S. Maine. The nationality 
principle, as it is often proclaimed, he said, seems to imply that 
people of one race are done wrong in case they have to have 
common political institutions with people of another race. That 
is, where there are two different social characters, A and B, A 
seems to be subordinate to B as soon as he has to live under the 
same constitution, even when this constitution, in its content, 
involves no lowering or subordination whatsoever. 

Subordination under the more distant personality has, finally, 
the very important significance that it is the more suitable to the 
extent to which the subordinates are heterogeneous or mutually 
alien or opposed elements. The members of a collectivity who 

Coordination of Parties in Case of Arbitration 221 

are subject to a higher personality resemble specific notions that 
are included in a general concept. This concept must be the 
more elevated and abstract — that is, it must be the more distant 
from the single ideas — the more different from one another 
the ideas to be covered by it. The most typical sociological case, 
whose identical form is represented in the most diverse fields, 
is that of conflicting parties which choose an arbitrator. This 
case has been discussed before. The more remote the arbiter is 
from the party interests of either of the two, the more willingly 
will the two parties submit to his decision. The analogy between 
the arbitrator and the higher concept consists in the fact that, 
what is common to both parties (the basis, that is, of their con- 
flict as well as of their possible reconciliation), must somehow be 
inherent in the arbitrator, or must at least be accessible to him. 
There is a threshold of differences beyond which the meeting 
of conflicting parties becomes impossible, no matter how high 
the point of conciliation may be located. In regard to the history 
of English industrial courts of arbitration to date, it has been 
stressed that these courts perform excellent services in inter- 
preting labor contracts and laws. These contracts and laws, how- 
ever, are said to be only rarely the reason for large strikes and 
lockouts, which .are the consequences, rather, of attempts, by 
workers or employers, to change working conditions. Here, 
where new bases of the relation between the two parties are at 
issue, the court of arbitration is- not indicated: the cleavage 
between the interests has become so wide that arbitration would 
have to be infinitely high above them in order to include and 
balance them. Analogously, we can think of ideas of such hetero- 
geneous contents that it is impossible to find a general concept 
which would cover their common features. 

§ 12 . Coordination of Parties in Case of Arbitration 

In the case of conflicting parties which are to subject them- 
selves to the higher tribunal of the arbitrator, it is, furthermore, 
a fact of decisive significance that these parties must be coordi- 
nate. If there exists some super-subordination relationship be- 
tween them, this will easily affect the judge's attitude toward 
one of the two, and this attitude will disturb his impartiality. 

222 Subordination under an Individual 

The danger exists even where the arbitrator is equally remote 
from the objective interests of either party; for, in spite of this, 
he will be inclined to be prejudiced in favor of the superordinate 
party or, occasionally, of the subordinate one. Class sympathies 
are a case in point. They are often quite unconscious because 
they are inseparably interwoven with the totality of the indi- 
vidual’s thoughts and feelings. They constitute the a priori, so 
to speak, which forms the apparently purely objective appraisal 
of the case. Class sympathies reveal their intimate integration 
with the very nature of the individual by the fact that his effort 
to avoid them usually does not lead to real objectivity and bal- 
ance, but to falling into the opposite extreme. 

Furthermore, where parties are in very different positions of 
elevation and power, the mere belief in the prejudicial character 
of the arbitrator (even if in actuality he is not prejudiced) is 
sufficient to make the whole procedure illusory. In conflicts 
between the workers and entrepreneurs, English courts of arbi- 
tration often call in an outside manufacturer as arbitrator. Yet 
every time his decision is against the workers, the workers accuse 
him of favoring his own class, no matter how impeccable his 
character may be. Inversely, if the arbitrator should be a parlia- 
mentarian, the manufacturers suspect him of weakness for the 
most numerous class of his constituents. Thus, a fully satisfactory 
situation will be the outcome only if the parties are in perfect 
coordination — be it only because, otherwise, the superordinate 
party usually also harvests the usurer’s interest of its position, 
namely, that, for the decision between itself and the subordinate 
party, it will manage to obtain an arbitrator who is in its own 
favor. For this reason, it is also legitimate to make the inverse 
inference: the nomination of an impartial arbitrator is always 
a sign that the conflicting parties recognize a certain reciprocal 
coordination. In voluntary English arbitratioin, worker and 
entrepreneur must subject themselves, by contract, to the deci- 
sion of the arbitrator, who can be neither an entrepreneur nor 
a worker. Evidently, only the entrepreneurs’ recognition of the 
workers’ coordination could make them renounce the participa- 
tion of entrepreneurs in the settlement of a conflict, and make 
them entrust it to an outsider. 

There is, finally, another, materially very different example 

Coordination of Parties in Case of Arbitration 223 

which teaches us that the common relationship o£ several ele- 
ments to a superordinate party presupposes, or effects, a coordi- 
nation among these elements, irrespective of all other differ- 
ences, indifferences, and contrasts; and that this coordination 
is the more necessary, the higher the tribunal is. It is obviously 
very important for the socializing significance which religion 
may have for large groups that God should be at a certain distance 
from the believers. The immediate, almost local nearness to 
the faithful, which is characteristic of the divine principles of 
all totemistic and fetishistic religions, as well as of the ancient 
Hebrew God, makes these religions entirely unsuitable to gov- 
ern very large groups. Only the immense elevation of the idea 
of the Christian God permitted the equality-before-God of un- 
equals. The distance to him was so immeasurable that differ- 
ences among men were extinguished by it. This did not prevent 
the intimate relation of the individual from being very close 
to him, for in this respect, all differences among men were as- 
sumed to disappear. Yet this intimate, individual relation tvas 
crystallized in this purity and autonomy only under the impact 
of that highest principle and of the relationship to it. Perhaps, 
however, the Catholic Church could create a world religion 
only by interrupting even this immediacy: by interposing itself 
between man and God, it moved God to a height which even in 
this regard was inaccessible to the unaided individual. 

Chapter 3 

Subordination under 
a Plurality 

§ 1 . Consequences for the Subordinates of. 
Subordination under a Plurality 


tures are characterized by the superordination of a plurality or 
social collectivity over individuals or other collectivities. In 
analyzing these structures, the first thing to be noted is that 
their significance for the subordinate is very uneven. The high- 
est aim of the Spartan and Thessalian slaves was to become slaves 
of the state rather than of individuals. Prior to the emancipation 
of the feudal peasants in Prussia, the peasants on the state 
domains had a far better lot than private peasants had. In the 
large modern enterprises and warehouses, which are not charac- 
terized by very individual management but either are joint- 
stock companies or are administered as impersonally as if they 
were, employees are better situated than in small businesses, 
with their personal exploitation by the owner. This relationship 
is repeated where the question is not the differential impact of 
individuals as over collectivities, but of smaller versus larger 
collectivities. India’s fate is considerably more favorable under 
British rule than under that of the East-India Company. In these 
cases, it is irrelevant, of course, whether the larger collectivity 
itself (for instance, England) is governed by a monarch — pro- 
vided that the technique of the domination which it exercises 
has, in the largest sense, the character of super-individuality. 
Thus, the aristocratic regime of the Roman Republic oppressed 
the provinces by far more than did the Roman Empire, which 
was much more just and objective. Usually it is also more favor- 


Consequences for Subordinates under a Plurality 225 

able for those who find themselves in a serving position to belong 
to a larger group. The great seigniories which developed in the 
seventh century in the Frankish realm often created a new, ad- 
vantageous position for the subject population. The vast hold- 
ings permitted an organization and differentiation of the workers. 
They thus developed qualified, and therefore more highly es- 
teemed, types of work which permitted the serf to rise socially 
within an individual seigniory. In the same sense, state criminal 
laws are often milder than those of smaller groups. 

Yet, as has already been indicated, several phenomena run 
in exactly the opposite direction. The allies of Athens and 
Rome, as well as the territories which were once subject to 
particular Swiss cantons, were suppressed and exploited as 
cruelly as it would have hardly been possible under the tyranny 
of a single ruler. The same joint-stock company, which in con- 
sequence of the technique of its operation exploits its employees 
less than does the private entrepreneur, in many cases (for in- 
stance, in indemnifications and charities) cannot proceed as 
liberally as the private citizen, who owes nobody an account of 
his expenditures. And in regard to particular impulses: the 
cruelties committed for the pleasure of the Roman circus audi- 
ences — whoso extreme intensification was often demanded by 
these audiences — would have hardly been committed by many, if 
the delinquent had faced them as an individual. 

The basic reason for the difference in the results which the 
rule by a plurality has for its subordinates, lies, first of all, in its 
character of objectivity. This character excludes certain feelings, 
leanings, and impulses, which become effective only in the indi- 
vidual actions of the subjects, but not in their collective be- 
havior. Within the given relationship and its particular con- 
tents, the situation of the subordinate may be influenced, 
favorably or unfavorably, by the objective or by the individually 
subjective character of this relationship; and, accordingly, differ- 
ences result from this. Where the subordinate, in line with his 
situation, needs the tenderness, altruism, and favor of the super- 
ordinate, he will fare badly under the objective domination by 
a plurality. Inversely, under conditions where only legality, im- 
partiality, and objectivity are favorable to his situation, the rule 
which has these features will be more desirable for him. It is 

226 Subordination under a Plurality 

characteristic of this phenomenon that the state, although it can 
legally condemn the criminal, cannot pardon him; and even in 
republics, the right to pardon is usually reserved for exercise 
by particular individuals. The principle is revealed most strik- 
ingly if we consider the material interests of communities. They 
are governed according to the profoundly objective axiom of 
greatest advantages and least sacrifices possible. This harshness 
and lack of consideration is by no means the same as the cruelty 
which individuals may commit for its own sake; but rather it is 
a wholly consistent objectivity. In a similar fashion, the bru- 
tality of a man purely motivated by monetary considerations and 
acting, to this extent, on the same axiom of greatest advantage 
and least sacrifice, often does not appear to him at all as a moral 
delinquency, since he is aware only of a rigorously logical be- 
havior, which draws the objective consequences of the situation. 

To be sure, this objectivity of collective behavior often 
merely implies something negative, namely, that certain norms 
to which the single individual ordinarily subjects himself, are 
suspended. Objectivity amounts to being a form that is designed 
to cover this suspension and to soothe the conscience. Every 
single individual who participates in a given decision can hide 
himself behind the fact, precisely, that it was a decision by the 
whole group. He can mask his own lust for gain and his brutality 
by maintaining that he only pursued the advantage of the to- 
tality. The idea that the possession of power — specifically, of 
rapidly acquired or long-lasting power — leads to its abuse, is true, 
for individuals, only with many and striking exceptions. By 
contrast, whenever it cannot be applied to social bodies and 
classes it is only because of especially fortunate circumstances. 

It is very remarkable that the disappearance of the individual 
behind the totality serves, or even intensifies, the questionable 
character of this procedure, even in cases when also the subju- 
gated party is a collectivity. The psychological re-creation of 
suffering — the essential vehicle of compassion and tenderness — 
fails easily if the sufferer is not a namable or visible individual 
but only a totality, which has no subjective states of mind, so 
to speak. It has been noted that English communal life has been 
characterized, throughout its history, by extraordinary justice 
toward persons and by equally great injustice toward groups. 

Consequences for Subordinates under a Plurality 227 

In view of the strong feeling for individual rights, it is only this 
second psychological peculiarity which accounts for the manner 
in which Dissenters, Jews, Irishmen, Hindus, and, in earlier 
periods, Scotchmen, have been treated. The immersion of the 
forms and norms of personality in the objectivity of collective 
life determines not only the action, but also the suffering of the 
groups. Objectivity, to be sure, operates in the form of law; but, 
where law is not compulsory and, therefore, ought to be replaced 
by personal conscientiousness, it frequently appears that the 
latter is no trait of collective psychology. This is shown even 
more decisively when, because of its collective character, the 
object of the procedure does not even stimulate the development 
of this personal trait. The misuses of power, as, for instance, in 
American city administrations, would have hardly attained their 
enormous dimensions if the rulers were not corporations, and 
the ruled not collectivities. Characteristically, it is sometimes 
believed that these misuses can be reduced by greatly increasing 
the power of the mayor — so that there would be somebody who 
could personally be held responsible. 

As a seeming exception to the objectivity of plurality action, 
which in reality, however, only anchors the rule more solidly, 
there is the behavior of the mass. It was already illustrated by the 
Roman circus audience. Two phenomena must be fundamentally 
distinguished here. On the one hand, there is the effect resulting 
from a plurality as a self-consistent and particular structure 
which, as it were, embodies an abstraction. Such a plurality may 
be an economic association, a state, a church — any grouping 
which in reality or by analogy has to be designated as a legal 
person. On the other hand, there is the plurality which is in fact 
physically present as a mass. Both are characterized by the sus- 
pension of individual-personal differences. But in the first case, 
this suspension causes features to come to the fore which lie, as 
it were, above the individual character; whereas, in the second 
case, those are activated which lie below. For within a mass of 
people in sensory contact, innumerable suggestions and nervous 
influences play back and forth; they deprive the individual of 
the calmness and autonomy of reflection and action. In a crowd, 
therefore, the most ephemeral incitations often grow, like aval- 
anches, into the most disproportionate impulses, and thus appear 

228 Subordination under a Plurality 

to eliminate the higher, differentiated and critical functions of 
the individual. It is for this reason that, in the theatre and at 
assemblies, we laugh about jokes which in a room would '‘leave 
us cold’*; that spiritualistic manifestations succeed best in “cir- 
cles”; that social games usually reach the highest degree of gaiety 
at the lowest intellectual level. Hence the quick, objectively 
quite ununderstandable changes in the mood of a mass; hence 
the innumerable observations concerning the “stupidity” of 

As I have said, I ascribe the paralyzation of higher qualities 
and the lack of resistance to being swept away, to the incalculable 
number of influences and impressions which cross back and 
forth in a crowd between everybody and everybody else, mutu- 
ally strengthening, crossing, deflecting, and reproducing them- 
selves. On the one hand, because of this tangle of minimal exci- 
tations below the threshold of consciousness, there develops a 
great nervous excitement at the expense of clear and consistent 
intellectual activity; it arouses the darkest and most primitive 
instincts of the individual, which ordinarily are under control. 
On the other hand, there emerges a hypnotic paralysis which 
makes the crowd follow to its extreme every leading, suggestive 
impulse. In addition, there are the power intoxication and ir- 
responsibility of the individual, whereby the moral inhibitions 
of the low and brutal impulses are eliminated. This satisfactorily 
explains the cruelty of crowds — ^whether they be composed of 
Roman circus goers, medieval Jew baiters, or American Negro 
lynchers — and the dire lot of those who become their victims. 

But here, too, the typical, twofold result of this sociological 
relationship of subordination clearly appears. For, the impul- 
siveness and suggestibility of the crowd occasionally allows it to 
follow suggestions of magnanimity and enthusiasm which the 
individual could not attain without it any more than he could 
commit those acts of cruelty. The ultimate reason for the con- 
tradictions within this configuration can be formulated as fol- 
lows: between the individual with his situations and needs, on 
the one hand, and all the super-individual or sub-individual 
phenomena and internal and external situations involved in 

7 More on this in the chapter on self-preservation [of the group. Not contained 
in this volume]. 

Subordination under Opposed Superordinates 229 

collectivization, on the other, there is no fundamental and con- 
stant, but only a variable and contingent, relation. If, therefore, 
abstract social units proceed more objectively, coolly, and con- 
sistently than the individual; if, inversely, crowds in concrete 
physical proximity act more impulsively, senselessly, and ex- 
tremely than each of its members alone; then, each of these two 
cases may be more favorable or more unfavorable for the person 
who is subject to such a plurality. There is, so to speak, nothing 
contingent about this contingency. It is the logical expression of 
the incommensurability between the specifically individual 
situations and claims at issue and the structures and moods that 
rule or serve the proximity and interaction of the many. 

§ 2 . Subordination under a Heterogeneous Plurality 

In the preceding analyses of subordination under a plurality, 
the single elements forming the plurality were coordinated, or, 
in all relevant regards, they behaved as if they were. New phe- 
nomena result, however, as soon as the superordinate plurality 
does not act as a unit of homogeneous elements. In this case, the 
superordinates may be either opposed to one another, or they 
may form a scale on which some of them are subordinate to 
higher superordinates. I first consider the former case. Its vari- 
ous types can be shown in terms of the variety of consequences 
for the subordinate. 

§ 3 . Subordination under Mutually Opposed 


If somebody is totally subject to several persons or groups, 
that is, subject in such a way that he has no spontaneity to con- 
tribute to the relationship but is entirely dependent on each 
super ordinate, he will suffer severely from their opposition. For, 
everyone of them will claim him, his forces and services, wholly, 
while at the same time holding him responsible — as if he were 
free to be responsible — for whatever he does or neglects at the 
compulsory request of the other. This is the typical situation of 

230 Subordination under a Plurality 

the “servant of two masters/' It is shown by children who stand 
between their conflicting parents; or by small states which are 
equally dependent on two powerful neighbors and hence, in 
case of their conflict, are often made responsible by each of the 
two for what their relationship of dependence upon the other 
forces them to do. If the conflict of such subordinate groups is 
wholly internalized and the superordinate elements operate as 
ideal moral forces which make their claim within the individual 
himself, then the situation appears as a “conflict of duties." 
While the more external conflict only appears in the person 
without originating there, as it were, this internal conflict breaks 
out of the individual because the moral conscience, internally, 
strives in two different directions, strives to obey two mutually 
exclusive powers. External conflict, therefore, in principle ex- 
cludes the spontaneity of the subject; and would, as a rule, be 
quickly terminated if this spontaneity came to operate. By con- 
trast, the conflict of duties is based on the fullest freedom of the 
subject, because only this freedom can embody the recognition 
of the two claims as morally obligatory claims. Yet, evidently, 
this contrast does not prevent the conflict between two powers, 
both of which request our obedience, from attaining the two 
forms simultaneously. As long as a conflict is purely external, it 
is worst if the personality is weak; but, if it becomes internalized, 
it is most destructive if the personality is strong. 

The rudimentary forms of such conflicts pervade our lives 
at large, as well as in details. We are so adapted to them, we so 
instinctively come to terms with them through compromise and 
through the compartmentalization of our activities, that in most 
cases they do not even enter our consciousness as conflicts. But, 
where they do, the insolubility of this situation usually comes 
to the fore — merely on the basis of its sociological form, even if 
its contingent contents permit attenuation and conciliation. For 
as long as there is a conflict of elements, each of which makes 
full claim on the same individual, no partition of its forces will 
satisfy those claims. What is more, usually not even a relative 
solution by means of such a partition will be possible, because 
a definite stand must be taken, and every single action faces an 
inflexible pro or contra. There is no differentiating compromise 
for Antigone between the religiously clothed claim of the family 

Subordination under Opposed Super ordinates 231 

group, which entails the burial of Polyneikes, and the law of 
the State, which forbids it. After her death, the contrasts, in their 
inner significance, face one another in exactly as harsh and un- 
reconciled a manner as they did at the beginning of the tragedy. 
They demonstrate that no behavior or fate of the individual who 
is subject to them, can suspend the conflict which they project 
into him. And even where the collision does not occur between 
those forces themselves, but only within the subject which obeys 
both; where, therefore, it seems easier to settle the collision by 
dividing the subject’s activities between them — even there, it is 
only the lucky accident following from the content of the situa- 
tion which makes this solution possible. Here the type is: Render 
unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s — ^but 
what, if one needs the coin claimed by Caesar for a deed in 
honor of God? The mere mutual strangeness and non-organiza- 
tion of the authoriites on both of which an individual depends 
at the same time, is sufficient to make his situation basically 
contradictory. And this is all the more the case, the more the 
conflict is internalized in the subject itself, and grows out of 
the ideal claims which live in the individual consciousness of 
duties. In the two examples given above, the subjectively moral 
accent lies essentially on one side of the contrast, while to the 
other side, the individual is subject only by some external inevi- 
tability. But where both claims have the same inner weight, it 
helps us little to use our best convictions for deciding in favor 
of one of them or for dividing our forces between them. For, 
the wholly or partially unmet claim still acts with all its weight; 
its unfilled quantum makes us fully responsible for it, even if 
externally it was impossible to satisfy it, and even if under the 
given circumstances our solution was morally the most correct 
one. Every really moral claim has something absolute that is not 
satisfied by any relative fulfillment — ^which nevertheless alone 
can be granted to it by virtue of the existence of another moral 
claim. Here, too, where we do not have to bow to any tribunal 
except our personal conscience, we fare no better than in the 
other case where neither of two external, contradictory bonds 
permits us any reservation in favor of the other. Internally, we 
cannot rest as long as a moral necessity remains unrealized, no 
matter whether or not we have a clean conscience in view of the 

232 Subordination under a Plurality 

fact that the existence of another necessity, which equally and 
in the same sense transcends its possibility of realization, forced 
us not to give more to the first than we actually did. 


Subordination under external, mutually opposed or alien, 
powers certainly becomes entirely different if the subordinate 
possesses any spontaneity whatever, if he can invest in the rela- 
tionship with some power of his own. This, in all its variations, is 
the situation of duobus litigantibus tertius gaudet,^ which was 
discussed in the preceding chapter [part]. Here, only some of its 
applications to the case of subordination of the tertius, and of 
the possibility that the higher parties are not in conflict, but, 
only strangers to one another, will be indicated. 

In regard to the existing quantum of freedom on the part 
of the subordinates, the situation usually introduces a process of 
growth which sometimes reaches the point of dissolving the sub- 
ordination itself. An essential difference between the medieval 
bondsman and the medieval vassal consisted in the fact that the 
former had, and could have, only one master, whereas the latter 
could take land from several lords and make the feudal vow to 
each of them. Through this possibility of entering several feudal 
service relations, the vassal gained solidity and independence in 
regard to the single feudal lord, and, thus, was compensated 
very considerably for the basic subordination of his position. A 
formally similar situation, in reference to the religious indi- 
vidual, is created by polytheism. Although the subject knows 
that he is ruled by a plurality of divine powers, he can — in a 
manner which logically, perhaps, is not wholly clear, but which 
psychologically is very real to him — turn from an inaccessible or 
powerless god to another god which gives him greater chances. 
Even in contemporary Catholicism, the believer often abandons 
a particular saint who has not rewarded him for his special 
adoration, in order to devote it to another saint — although, in 
principle, he cannot deny that the power which also the first 
has over him continues to hold. Inasmuch as the individual has 
at least some choice between the powers to which he is subject, 
he gains a certain independence in respect to each of them and, 

« *‘If two parties quarrel, the third has the advantage." — Tr. 

Subordination under Opposed Super ordinates 233 

as far as his intimate feelings are concerned, even, perhaps, in 
respect to their totality. But this independence is denied him 
where the same amount of religious dependency is concentrated 
inescapably, as it were, in the idea of a single God. 

This also is the form, finally, in which modern man gains a 
certain independence in the field of economics. The modern 
individual, especially the resident of the large city, is infinitely 
more dependent on the sum of all his suppliers taken together 
than is man under conditions of a simpler economy. Neverthe- 
less, since he has an almost unlimited possibility of changing or 
choosing among these suppliers, he has a freedom in regard to 
each one of them which cannot even be compared with the 
freedom of man under simpler or small-town conditions. 

The same formal delimitation of the relationship results if 
the divergence among the superordinates develops successively, 
rather than simultaneously. According to historical contents and 
special conditions, the most varied transformations appear; but 
the same formal phenomenon operates in all of them. Formally, 
the Roman Senate greatly depended upon the high state officials. 
But since these officials had only short terms of office, whereas 
the Senate kept its members permanently, the power of the 
Senate actually* became much greater than could be inferred 
from its legal relation to the government executives. Ever since 
the fourteenth century, the growth in power of the House of 
Commons, in comparison with the English Crown, resulted 
from basically the same motive. The dynastic parties were still 
capable of determining the elections in favor of Royalism or 
Reform, of York or of Lancaster. Yet under all these power 
demonstrations of the rulers. Commons persevered and, pre- 
cisely because of the oscillations and changes of wind in the 
highest regions, attained a firmness, strength, and independence 
which it would perhaps never have gained if the highest regimes 
had always had the same direction. In a corresponding manner, 
the growth of the democratic consciousness in France has been 
derived (among other things) from the fact that, since the fall 
of Napoleon I, changing governmental powers followed one an- 
other in rapid succession. Each one of them was incompetent, 
uncertain, and trying to gain the favor of the masses — ^whereby 
every citizen was bound to become deeply aware of his own 

234 Subordination under a Plurality 

social significance. Although he was subject to every one of these 
governments, he nevertheless felt himself to be strong, because 
he formed the lasting element in all the change and contrast 
among the successive regimes. 

There is a power which an element in a relationship acquires 
by the mere fact of its perseverance in comparison with its vari- 
able fellow elements. This power is such a general, formal 
consequence that its exploitation by an element which is subordi- 
nate in some relationship must be understood merely as a spe- 
cial case. For, the superordinate has this power, too. There is 
the prerogative which ‘‘the state*’ and “the church” have by 
virtue of their mere stability as over against the short-livedness 
of those that are ruled by them; and there is a whole range of 
other examples — down to the highly singular one, that the high 
frequency of puerperal fever during the Middle Ages greatly 
increased the sovereignty of the husband in the house. For, the 
result of this frequency was that most healthy men successively 
had several wives. Thus, the power of the lord of the house 
accumulated in one person, whereas that of the housewife was 
distributed among several persons in succession. 

§ 4 . Subordination under Stratified Superordinates 

In all the cases discussed, the phenomena of superordination 
and subordination seemed to permit the most contradictory 
consequences for the subordinate. Yet everywhere, closer spe- 
cification showed the reasons for these contradictions, without 
making it necessary to abandon the same general type: no matter 
what the contents, the common form remained the same. This 
similarity also holds true in regard to the second combination, 
which we must now discuss, namely, the case in which a num- 
ber of superordinate authorities, instead of being mutually 
alien or hostile, themselves stand in superordinate and subordi- 
nate relationships toward one another. 



Here again, two very different constellations must be dis- 
tinguished. The first is that the subordinate still stands in an 

Subordination under Stratified Superordinates 235 

immediate relation with the highest among his superordinates. 
The second is that the intermediate layer, which is superordinate 
to him but subordinate to the highest, completely separates him 
from the latter and thus alone, actually, represents the super- 
ordinate elements to him. Cases of the first kind were created by 
feudalism, where the person who was inferior to the more power- 
ful vassal, nevertheless remained the subject of the reigning 
dynasty. English feudalism at the time of William the Conqueror 
is a very faithful portrayal of this. It is described by Stubbs as 
follows: ‘‘All men continued to be primarily the king’s men 
and the public peace to be his peace. Their lords might demand 
their service to fulfill their own obligations, but the king could 
call them to his courts, and tax them without the intervention 
of their lords, and to the king they could look for protection 
against all foes.” Thus, the position of the subordinate in re- 
gard to his superordinate is favorable if the latter, in his turn, is 
subordinate to a still higher authority in which the former finds 
support. This, in fact, is really a natural consequence of the 
underlying sociological configuration. In general, there is always 
some hostility or question of jurisdiction between contiguous 
elements of a hierarchy. The middle element, therefore, is often 
in conflict with both the higher and lower ones. Common hos- 
tility unites the most divergent sectors, that cannot be unified 
by any other means. This is one of the typical formal rules 
which is proved in all existing fields of social life. 

A nuance of it becomes particularly important for the prob- 
lem under discussion here. Even in the ancient Orient, it is the 
glory of the ruler to take up the cause of the weak who are 
oppressed by the strong — be it only, because in this fashion, the 
ruler emerges more powerful than the oppressor. In Greece it 
happened that an oligarchy previously in power branded the 
very same person with the name of tyrant whom the lower 
masses revered as their liberator from tyranny — as it occurred 
to Euphron of Sicyon. It is hardly necessary to re-emphasize the 
frequency, throughout history, of the motive of the lower 
masses which are supported by the ruler in their fight against 
the aristocracy. What is more, even where there is no such im- 
mediate relation between the highest and lowest steps of the 
social scale for the purpose of checking the intermediate layers; 

236 Subordination under a Plurality 

where, on the contrary, the lowest and intermediate strata are 
equally suppressed by the highest; even there, the mere fact that 
the intermediate layer, too, experiences the fate of the lowest, 
offers it at least a psychological, emotional relief. Among cer- 
tain African and Asiatic peoples, polygamy takes on a form in 
which only one of the wives is considered the proper, first, or 
legitimate spouse, while the others are in a subordinate or serv- 
ing position in regard to her. But, in respect to the husband, even 
the superordinate wife is by no means better situated: for him, 
she is as much a slave as the other wives are. Such a situation, in 
which one of two superordinates is under the same pressure from 
above as is his inferior in regard to him, no doubt makes — in 
view of general human disposition — the pressure more bearable 
for the latter, too. Man usually draws some satisfaction from the 
suppression of his suppressor. He usually has some feeling of 
superiority if he can identify himself with his master’s master, 
even where this sociological constellation does not involve any 
real relief from pressure. 


The content or form of the sociological structure may ex- 
clude contact between the highest and lowest layer which could 
be used for a common hostility against the middle. Hence, the 
continuity of the structure runs from top to bottom, but not 
inversely. If these are the features of the structure, there is room 
for the emergence of a typical sociological process which may 
be designated as the transfer or transmission [Abwdlzun^ of 
pressure. If this occurs, we no longer have the case of a powerful 
person or party exploiting its position for the abuse of a weaker 
one. Rather, the superordinate here transmits the impairment 
of his position, against which he cannot defend himself, to some 
powerless person, and thus tries to maintain himself in the status 
quo ante. The retailer transfers the difficulties which arise for 
him from the pretensions and caprices of the public, to the 
wholesaler; the wholesaler, to the manufacturer; and the manu- 
facturer to his workers. 

In every hierarchy, a new pressure or imposition moves along 
the line of least resistance which, though not in its first stage, 
usually and eventually, runs in a descending direction. This is 

Subordination under Stratified Superordinates 237 

the tragedy of whoever is lowest in any social order. He not only 
has to suffer from the deprivations, efforts, and discriminations 
which, taken together, characterize his position: in addition, 
every new pressure on any point whatever in the superordinate 
layers is, if technically possible at all, transmitted downward 
and stops only at him. Irish agrarian conditions give a very pure 
example of this. The English lord who owned an estate in Ire- 
land but never visited his property, leased it to a head farmer 
who in turn rented it out to smaller farmers, etc., so that the 
poor peasant often had to lease his small piece of land from a fifth 
or sixth middleman. This accounted for the fact, first, that he 
had to pay six pounds for a field, of which sum the owner 
received only ten shillings. But furthermore, every rise of the 
farm-rent by a shilling, which the owner imposed upon the 
farmer with whom he negotiated directly, reached the peasant 
not as a rise by a shilling, but by the twelvefold amount. For, 
evidently, the initial increase in pressure is not transferred in 
its absolute magnitude, but in its relative magnitude, which 
corresponds to the already existing measure of power of the 
superior over the inferior. Thus, the reprimand which an em- 
ployee receives from his superior may be in the moderate 
phraseology of Jiigher civilization; but this employee, perhaps, 
will already express his annoyance at the reprimand by crudely 
shouting at his subaltern, who angrily beats up his children on 
a perfectly trifling occasion. 


The particularly unfavorable situation of the lowest element 
in a complex scale of super-subordination derives from the fact 
that the scale permits a certain continuous downward-gliding 
of the pressure. Another structure, which formally strikes us as 
quite different, leads to very similar results for the lowest stra- 
tum. It, too, destroys its connection with the highest element, 
which was its support against the intermediary layers. This in- 
termediate layer may be such a broad and powerful stratum 
between the other two that all measures taken by the top in 
favor of the bottom must pass through it. Instead of a connection 
between above and below, this situation often effects their com- 

238 Subordination under a Plurality 

plete separation. As long as individuals were subject to particu- 
lar manors, the nobility carried the administrative organization 
of the state and, in regard to its subjects, exercised judicial, eco- 
nomic, and tax functions, without which the state could not have 
existed. Thus, nobility did in fact link the subject masses to 
the general interest and to the supreme power. But, since the 
nobility also had private interests, in behalf of which it wanted 
to exploit the peasants for itself, it utilized its position as an 
administrative organ intermediate between the government and 
the bottom, and thus for a long time actually annulled the meas- 
ures and laws designed by the government in behalf of the 
peasants. This was possible because, for a very long time, the 
government could act only through the medium of the nobility. 
It is obvious that the formation of such insulating layers harms 
not only the lowest, but also the highest link of the scale, by 
depriving it of forces which would accrue to it from below. 
Medieval German kingship, for instance, was extraordinarily 
weakened by the fact that the rising lower nobility was bound 
only to the higher nobility, because it was enfeoffed by it alone. 
The intermediate link of the high nobility eventually separated 
the lower nobility from the crown entirely. 

For the rest, obviously, the effect of this structure and its 
separations and fusions upon the lowest element, depends on 
the attitude of the higher strata toward this element. Contrary 
to the cases observed thus far, modifications in this attitude may 
cause the separation through the intermediate layer to be favor- 
able, and the circumvention of the intermediate layer, to be un- 
favorable. The first case has applied to England since Edward I, 
when the exercise of judiciary, financial, and police authority 
was gradually transferred, by legal order, to the propertied classes 
organized in county and city associations. These, as whole groups, 
took over the individual’s protection against absolute force. The 
communal units, represented in Parliament, became the coun- 
terweight of the highest power which shielded the individual 
from illegal and unjust transgressions by the state government. 
In the France of the Ancien Regime the process was the reverse. 
Here, from the beginning, nobility was tied up intimately with 
the local group which it administered and ruled, and whose 
interests it represented in the central government. The state 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 239 

injected itself into this relation between nobleman and peasant, 
and gradually took away from the nobility the functions of gov- 
ernment — ^administration of justice, care of the poor, police, and 
road construction. The nobility wanted no traffic with this cen- 
tralized government, which was only interested in the collection 
of money, and, therefore, withdrew from its social duties, aban- 
doning the peasant to the royal intendants and delegates who 
thought only of the cash box of the state, or of their own, and 
completely deprived the farmer of his original support by the 

§5. The Phenomenon of Outvoting 

A special form of subordination under a plurality lies in the 
principle of “outvoting” [Vberstimmung\ of minorities by 
majorities. Yet, beyond its significance for the sociology of super- 
ordination and subordination, outvoting roots itself in so many 
other interests of societal formation and branches out in so many 
of them, that it appears appropriate to discuss it in a special 

The essence of societal formation, which accounts for the 
incomparability, of its results as much as for the unsolved state 
of its inner problems, is this: that out of closed units — such as 
human personalities more or less are — a new unit emerges. A 
painting cannot be made out of paintings, nor a tree out of 
trees: the autonomous whole does not grow out of wholes, but of 
dependent parts. Only society makes that which is whole and 
centered in itself into a mere member of a more comprehensive 
whole. Ultimately, all restless evolution of societal forms, in its 
bold outlines as in its minute details, is merely the ever renewed 
attempt at reconciling the individual’s unity and totality (which 
are oriented inwardly) with his social role (which is only a part of 
society and a contribution to it). It is an attempt at saving the 
unity and totality of society from disruption by the autonomy of 
its parts. Every conflict among the members of a collectivity 
makes the continuance of this collectivity dubious. The signifi- 

® ". . . sic in einem besonderen Exkurs [excursion, note] zu hehandeln.” Follows 
a five-page **Exkurs ilber die Vberstimmun^' in smaller type. This is translated 
as the present section. — Tr. 

240 Subordination under a Plurality 

cance, therefore, of voting — of voting to the result of which the 
minority, too, agrees to yield — is the idea that the unity of 
the whole must, under all circumstances, remain master over the 
antagonism of convictions and interests. In its seeming sim- 
plicity, voting is one of the most outstanding means by which the 
conflict among individuals is eventually transformed into a uni- 
form result. 

But this has by no means always been so matter-of-course as 
it strikes us today. The form under discussion also includes the 
dissenter. Every person who participates in the voting practically 
accepts its result — unless he secedes from the group in anticipa- 
tion of this result. There are two main factors which, in all kinds 
of groups, do not admit of the majority principle, but require 
unanimity for every decision. On the one hand, there is a cer- 
tain intellectual clumsiness which makes it impossible to under- 
stand the creation of a social unit out of dissenting elements. On 
the other hand, there is a strong feeling of individuality on 
account of which one does not wish to yield to any decision with- 
out full consent. Thus, the decisions of the German mark asso- 
ciations had to be unanimous; what could not be done 
unanimously was not done at all. Until far into the Middle 
Ages, the English nobleman who dissented from the granting 
of a tax or was absent at the relevant deliberations, often refused 
to pay for it. The above-mentioned feeling of individuality 
operates where unanimity is required for the election of a king 
or leader: he who has not personally elected him is not expected 
or required to obey him. In the tribal council of the Iroquois, 
as well as in the Polish Diet, no decision was valid from which 
even a single voice had dissented. 

Yet the contradiction between cooperating in a collective 
action and opposing it as an individual, does not, in itself alone, 
entail the logical consequence of unanimity. For if a proposal, 
for lack of a unanimous vote, is considered rejected, the minority 
(to be sure) is thereby prevented from being violated by the 
majority — but the majority is also violated by the minority. 
Moreover, the suspension of a measure which has been approved 
by a majority usually is something very tangible, something 
which has very positive consequences; and it is these conse- 
quences which the minority, with the help of the principle of 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 241 

compulsory unanimity, foists upon the majority. This “minor- 
ization” of the majority by means of unanimity negates, in 
principle, the individual freedom which it is designed to save. 
But aside from this ‘‘minorization,” historically and practically, 
the principle of unanimity has often enough had the same result. 
For the Spanish kings, there was no more favorable situation for 
suppressing the Aragonese Cortes than this very “freedom”: 
until 1 592, the Cortes could make no decision once even a single 
member of the four estates disagreed. This so paralyzed action 
that a less cumbersome substitute was required forthwith. Some- 
times — as in verdicts by juries — it is impossible to waive a pro- 
posal or to renounce a practical result, because it must be reached 
under all circumstances. In such cases, the requirement of unani- 
mity (found, for instance, in England and America) is based on 
the more or less unconscious assumption that the objective 
truth must always also be subjectively convincing, and that, 
inversely, the identity of subjective convictions is the criterion 
of objective truth. It is further assumed, therefore, that a mere 
majority decision probably does not yet contain the full truth 
because, if it did, it ought to have succeeded in uniting all votes. 
Here we have an apparently clear, but at bottom mystical, faith 
in the power of truth, in the ultimate coincidence of the logi- 
cally correct with the psychologically real. This faith brings 
about the solution of the basic conflict between individual con- 
victions and the claim on them to produce a uniform, over-all 
result. In its practical consequences, this faith leads to the oppo- 
site of its own tendency, as much as does the individualistic 
justification of unanimity: where the jury is locked up until it 
reaches a unanimous verdict, a potential minority is almost ir- 
resistibly tempted to join the majority against its own conviction, 
which it cannot hope to carry through — in order to avoid the 
senseless and possibly unbearable prolongation of the session. 

On the other hand, in majority decisions, the subordination 
of the minority may be bas^d on two motives, whose distinction 
is of the greatest sociological significance. The overpowering of 
the minority can, first, derive from the fact that the many are 
more powerful than the few. Although, or rather because, the 
voting individuals are considered to be equals, the majority has 

10 The original, by mistake, reads ‘*Majorisierung.** — Tr. 

242 Subordination under a Plurality 

the physical power to coerce the minority, whether the majority 
is ascertained by preliminary vote or by representation. The 
voting serves the purpose of avoiding the immediate contest 
of forces and of finding out its potential result by counting votes, 
so that the minority may convince itself that its actual resistance 
would be of no avail. In the group, therefore, two parties con- 
front one another like two independent groups, between which 
the decision is made by power relations, represented by votes. 
Voting has the same methodological function here as have, be- 
tween parties, diplomatic or other negotiations designed to avoid 
the ultima ratio of fight. Aside from exceptions, here too, the 
individual after all gives in only if the adversary can make it 
clear to him that, in case of a serious contest, he would have to 
pay an (at least) equally severe penalty. Like those inter-group 
negotiations, voting, too, is a projection of real forces and of 
their proportions upon the plane of intellectuality; it anticipates, 
in an abstract symbol, the result of concrete battle and coercion. 
This symbol, at least, does represent the real power relations 
and the enforced subordination which they impose on the mi- 

Sometimes, this enforced physical subordination is subli- 
mated into an ethical form. In the later Middle Ages, we often 
find the principle that the minority ought to follow the majority. 
This principle, evidently does not only involve the suggestion 
that the minority should cooperate with the majority for prac- 
tical reasons: it should also accept the will of the majority; it 
should recognize that the majority wants what is right. Unani- 
mity is not a fact but a moral claim. The action taken against 
the will of the minority is legitimated by a unity of the will, 
which is produced retroactively. The old-German, real require- 
ment of unanimity thus became a pale ideal requirement. But 
a wholly new factor is contained in it, namely, the majority’s 
inner right, which goes beyond the numerical preponderance of 
votes and the external superiority symbolized by it. The major- 
ity appears as the natural representative of the totality. It shares 
in the significance of its unity, which transcends the mere sum 
of the component individuals, and has something of a super- 
empirical or mystical note. If Grotius later maintained that the 
majority had naturaliter jus integri [by nature the right of the 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 243 

whole], he thus fixed this inner claim over the minority; for 
one not only must recognize a law, one also ought to do so. 

The fact that the majority possesses the right of the whole 
according to ‘'the nature*' of things, that is, on grounds of inner, 
rational necessity, shows the transition from the nuance of the 
right to outvote which has just been noted, to its second im- 
portant central motive. The voice of the majority now no longer 
is the voice of the greater power within the group, but is the 
sign that the homogeneous will of the group has decided in favor 
of this side. The requirement of unanimity initially derived 
entirely from an individualistic basis. The original sociological 
feeling of the Germanic peoples was that the unity of the com- 
mon cause did not live outside the individuals but entirely 
within them. For this reason, the will of the group not only 
was not ascertained, but did not exist at all, as long as even a 
single member dissented. But even where outvoting is resorted 
to, it still has an individualistic basis as long as it operates on 
the idea that the many are more powerful than the few, and that 
the function of voting is merely to reach the result of the real 
contest of forces without engaging in this contest itself. In com- 
parison with this conception, the principle of an objective group 
unit, with its own, homogeneous will, is a wholly new develop- 
ment, whether the assumption of this principle is a conscious 
act, or practice merely proceeds as if such an autonomous group 
will did exist. The will of the state, of the community, of the 
church, of the group based on a common interest, exists irrespec- 
tive of any contrasts among individual wills contained in these 
groups, and it also exists outside the temporal succession of 
their members. Since the group will is one, it must act in a cer- 
tain, homogeneous fashion. But this is in conflict with the fact 
that its bearers have antagonistic volitions. The contradiction, 
therefore, calls for a solution. It is found in the assumption 
that the majority knows or represents this will better than the 

Here, therefore, the subordination of the minority has a very 
different significance than before. For now, the minority is, in 
principle, not excluded but included; and the majority acts, not 
in the name of its own greater power, but in the name of the 
ideal unity and totality. It is only to the latter, speaking through 

244 Subordination under a Plurality 

the voice of the majority, that the minority subordinates itself: 
it has already belonged to it from the beginning. This is the 
inner principle of parliamentary elections. The representative 
feels himself to be the delegate of the whole people, rather than 
of particular interests, which ultimately are based on the indi- 
vidualistic principle of the contest of forces, or of local interests, 
which derive from the erroneous idea that their sum equals the 
interest of the whole. 

The transition to this fundamental sociological principle 
can be observed in the development of the English Lower 
House. From the beginning, its members were considered the 
representatives neither of a particular number of citizens nor 
of the whole people, but of certain local political groups, com- 
munities and counties, which had the right to participate in 
forming the parliament. This local principle was so rigidly ob- 
served that, for a long time, every member of Commons had 
to reside in his electoral place. But, nevertheless, it was of a 
somehow ideal nature, since it rose above the notion of the mere 
sum of individual voters. It only took an increase and awareness 
of the interests which were common to all these groups; and 
the higher union to which all of them belonged, namely, the 
state unit, emerged as the proper subject of their mandate. 
Through the recognition of their essential solidarity, the indi- 
vidual localities represented grew together into the whole of 
the state in such a way that the localities came to have the only 
function of designating a delegate for the representation of this 
whole. Once such a homogeneous group will was assumed, the 
elements of the minority dissented, so to speak, only as indi- 
viduals, not as group members. 

This alone can be the deeper meaning of the Lockean theory 
of the original contract which is designed to establish the state. 
Since this contract is the absolute foundation of the group, it 
must be concluded with full unanimity. Yet the contract itself 
contains the clause that everybody considers the will of the 
majority as his own will. In entering into the social contract, 
the individual is still absolutely free, and therefore cannot be 
subjected to outvoting. But once he has entered it, he is no 
longer a free individual but a social being and, as such, only 
part of a unit whose will finds its decisive expression in the will 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 245 

of the majority. This idea is formulated in an explicit fashion 
by Rousseau, when he holds outvoting not to be any violation 
of the individual, for the reason that it can be provoked only 
by the dissenter's error: the dissenter took something, which 
actually was not the general will, to be the volonte generale. 
This idea of Rousseau is based on the conviction that, in the 
capacity of group member, one can want nothing else than the 
will of the group: and in regard to the will of the group, only 
the single individual, but not the majority, can be mistaken. 
For this reason, Rousseau made a very fine distinction between 
the formal fact of voting and the particular contents of voting; 
and he declared that one participated in the formation of the 
common will by the fact of voting itself. Rousseau's idea could 
be explicated by stating that, through the act of voting, the 
individual commits himself not to avoid the unity of this will, 
not to destroy it by pitting his own will against the majority. 
Subordination to the majority, thus, is only the logical conse- 
quence of belonging to the social unit to which the individual 
committed himself by his vote. 

Practice is not entirely removed from this abstract theory. 
The best student of the federation of English trade unions says 
that their majority decisions are justifiable and practicable only 
insofar as the interests of the various confederates are homoge- 
neous. As soon as differences of opinion between majority and 
minority result from real differences in interests, any compul- 
sion produced by outvoting inevitably leads to a separation of 
the members. In other words, a vote makes sense only if the 
existing interests can fuse into a unity. If divergent tendencies 
preclude this centralization, it becomes a contradictory proce- 
dure to entrust a majority with the decision, since the homoge- 
neous will, which ordinarily (to be sure) can be better ascer- 
tained by a majority than by a minority, is objectively non- 

Here, we have this seeming contradiction, which in reality, 
however, profoundly illuminates the relationship: that, pre- 
cisely where a super-individual unity exists or is assumed, out- 
voting is possible; but that, where this unity is lacking, it is 
necessary to have unanimity, which in practice, from case to 
case, replaces it by actual equality. It is entirely in this sense 

246 Subordination under a Plurality 

that the municipal law of Leiden determined, in 1266, that the 
permission of the eight city jurors was necessary for the admis- 
sion of outsiders into the city, but that for court decisions, not 
their unanimity, but only a simple majority, was required. The 
law by which the judges decided was determined once for all, 
and the point was merely to recognize the relationship of the 
individual case, which the majority could presumably do more 
correctly than the minority. But the admission of a new citizen 
touched on all the varied and divergent interests within the 
citizenry so that this admission could not be granted on the basis 
of the abstract unit constituted by these interests, but only on 
the basis of the sum of all individual interests, that is, through 

The deeper justification of outvoting, then, is that it merely 
reveals, as it were, the will of a significant unit, a will which 
already existed ideally. This justification, however, does not 
remove the difficulty which inheres in the majority as a purely 
overwhelming power surplus. For often the conflict over the 
content of the will of that abstract unit will be no more easily 
solved than the conflict among the immediate, real interests. 
The violation of the minority is no less grave for occurring in 
this indirect way and under this different name. The idea of the 
majority needs, at least, an additional, entirely new dignity. For, 
it may be plausible, but it is by no means self-evident, that the 
more correct knowledge is, in fact, on the side of the majority. 
It is particularly dubious where knowledge, and action upon 
this knowledge, is based on the inner responsibility of the indi- 
vidual — as in the more profound religions. The whole history 
of Christianity has been characterized by the opposition of 
the individual conscience to the resolutions and actions of 
majorities. In the second century, when the Christian com- 
munities of a given area introduced assemblies with the purpose 
of deliberating on religious and external affairs, the resolutions 
of these assemblies were explicitly not obligatory for the dissent- 
ing minority. Yet the effort of the church toward the unity came 
into insoluble conflict with this individualism. The Roman 
state wished to recognize only one united church; the church 
itself sought to solidify itself by imitating the unity of the state. 
Thus, the originally autonomous Christian communities fused 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 247 

into a unitary total structure whose councils decided, by ma- 
jority vote, on the contents of the faith. This was an unheard-of 
violation of the individual members — at least, of the com- 
munities — ^whose unity, previously, had consisted only in the 
equality of the ideals and hopes which each of them possessed 
for himself. A subordination in matters of faith might have 
been permissible for inner or personal reasons; but that the 
majority, as such, requested subjection and declared every dis- 
senter a non-Christian, could be justified only, as I have already 
suggested, by accepting a wholly new significance of “majority*’: 
one had to assume that God was always with the majority. As an 
unconscious but fundamental feeling, or in some kind of formu- 
lation, this motive pervades the whole later development of 
voting forms. That an opinion, only because its exponents are 
more numerous than those of another opinion, should encom- 
pass the meaning of the super-individual unit, is an entirely 
undemonstrable dogma. In fact, it is so little justified that with- 
out an auxiliary, more or less mystical relation between that 
unit and the majority, it remains suspended in mid-air; or else 
it is based on the somewhat weak foundation that, after all, one 
has to act somehow and, even if one may not assume the ma- 
jority as such tQ know what is right, there is the less reason for 
assuming it of the minority. 

Thus, both the requirement of unanimity and the subordi- 
nation of the minority are threatened by difficulties from various 
sides. All these difficulties are merely the expression of the fun- 
damentally problematic character of the whole task of extracting 
the action of a homogeneous will from a totality which is com- 
posed of differently oriented individuals. The task is a calcula- 
tion which cannot be solved without remainder, any more than 
one can make something out of black and white elements, on 
the condition that the result be either black or white. Even in 
the most favorable case of a group unity supposed to exist out- 
side the individuals, where the counting of votes is merely a 
means for ascertaining the tendencies of this group unity — even 
in this case, there remains unsettled the question whether the 
objectively necessary decision is identical with that which is 
based on counting votes. What is more, provided even the ele- 
ments of the minority really dissent only as individuals and not 

248 Subordination under a Plurality 

as elements of that group unity, nevertheless, they exist as in- 
dividuals: after all, they belong to the group in the larger sense 
of the term; they are not simply obliterated by the whole. In 
some way or other, they enter the whole of the group even as dis- 
senting individuals. 

To be sure, the separation of man as a social being and as 
an individual is a necessary and useful fiction. But reality and 
its claims are by no means exhausted by it. The inadequacy and 
the feeling of inner contradiction in voting methods are char- 
acterized by the fact that, in various places, most recently prob- 
ably in the Hungarian Parliament well into the * thirties of the 
nineteenth century, the votes were not counted but weighed, so 
that the presiding officer could announce even the opinion of 
the minority as the result of the vote. It appears nonsensical 
that a man subjects himself to an opinion which he holds to be 
false, only because others hold it to be true — while, following 
from the very premise of the election, every one of these others 
has the same right and the same value as he does. But, on the 
other hand, the requirement of unanimity which is to meet 
this contradiction, shows itself to be no less contradictory and 
unfair. And this is not an accidental dilemma, not a merely 
logical difficulty. It is only one among the symptoms of the deep 
and tragic ambiguity which pervades the very roots of every 
societal formation, of every formation of a unit out of units. The 
individual who lives from his inner resources, who can answer 
for his actions only if they are directed by his own conviction, 
is supposed to orient his will toward the purposes of others. As 
something ethical, this remains always a matter of his own will; 
it flows from the innermost core of his personality. But what is 
more, he is also supposed to become, in his self-based existence, 
a member of a collectivity which has its center outside of him. 
We are not discussing here particular harmonies or collisions 
of these two claims. The point, rather, is that man internally 
stands under two, mutually alien norms; that our movement 
revolving around our own center (something totally different 
from egoism) claims to be as definitive as the movement around 
the social center; in fact, it claims to be the decisive meaning of 
life. Into the vote concerning the action of the group, the 
individual does not enter as an individual, but in his super- 

The Phenomenon of Outvoting 249 

individual function of member. But still, the dissent of votes 
transplants upon this purely social soil a ray, a secondary form, 
of individuality and its unique character. And even this indi- 
viduality, which merely desires to ascertain and represent the 
will of the super-individual group unit, is negated by the fact 
of outvoting. Even here, the minority must subordinate itself, 
although to belong to the minority forms the inalienable oppor- 
tunity of every individual. And it must subordinate itself, not 
only in the simple sense in which ordinarily convictions and 
efforts are negated and made ineffectual by opposing forces, but 
in the more subtle and crafty sense that the loser, because he is 
part of the group, must positively participate in the action which 
was decided upon against his will and conviction. What is more, 
the uniform character of the eventual decision which contains 
no trace of his dissent, makes him, too, responsible for it. In this 
way, outvoting, far from being only the simple practical viola- 
tion of the one by the many, becomes the most poignant expres- 
sion of the dualism between the autonomous life of the indi- 
vidual and the life of society, a dualism which is often harmo- 
nized in experience, but which, in principle, is irreconcilable. 

Chapter 4 

Subordination under 
a Principle 

§ 1. Subordination under a Principle vs. a Person 


the third typical form of subordination, subordination neither 
to an individual nor to a plurality, but to an impersonal, ob- 
jective principle. The fact that here a real interaction, at least 
an immediate interaction, is precluded, seems to deprive this 
form of the element of freedom. The individual who is sub- 
ordinate to an objective law feels himself determined by it; 
while he, in turn, in no way determines the law, and has no 
possibility of reacting to it in a manner which could influence 
it — quite in contrast to even the most miserable slave, who, in 
some fashion at least, can still in this sense react to his master. 
For if one simply does not obey the law, one is, to this extent, 
not really subjected to it; and if one changes the law, one is not 
subordinate to the old law at all, but is again, in the same en- 
tirely unfree manner, subject to the new law. In spite of this, 
however, for modern, objective man, who is aware of the differ- 
ence between the spheres of spontaneity and of obedience, sub- 
ordination to a law which functions as the emanation of imper- 
sonal, uninfluenceable powers, is the more dignified situation. 
This was quite different at a time when the personality could 
preserve its self-esteem only in situations characterized by full 
spontaneity, which even in case of complete subordination were 
still associated with inter-personal effect and counter-effect. For 
this reason, as late as in the sixteenth century, princes in France, 
Germany, Scotland, and the Netherlands often met with con- 
siderable resistance, if they let their countries be ruled by ad- 


Subordination under a Principle vs. a Person 251 

ministrative bodies or erudite substitutes — that is, more nearly 
by laws. The ruler's order was felt to be something personal; 
the individual wanted to lend him obedience only from per- 
sonal devotion; and personal devotion, in spite of its uncondi- 
tional character, is always in the form of free reciprocity. 

This passionate personalism of the subordination relation- 
ship almost becomes its own caricature in the following circum- 
stance, reported from Spain at the beginning of the modern 
period. An impoverished nobleman who became a cook or 
lackey, did not thereby definitively lose his nobility: it only 
became latent and could be awakened again by a favorable turn 
of fate. But once he became a craftsman, his nobility was de- 
stroyed. This is entirely contrary to the modern conception, 
which separates the person from his achievement and, therefore, 
finds personal dignity to be preserved best if the content of 
subordination is as objective as possible. Thus, an American 
girl, who would work in a factory without the slightest feeling 
of humiliation, would feel wholly degraded as a family cook. 
Already in thirteenth-century Florence, the lower guilds com- 
prised occupations in the immediate service of persons, such as 
cobblers, hosts, and school teachers; whereas the higher guilds 
were composed of occupations which, though still serving the 
public, were yet more objective and less dependent on particular 
individuals — for instance, clothiers and grocers. On the other 
hand, in Spain, where knightly traditions, with their engage- 
ment of the whole person in all activity, were still alive, every 
relationship which (in any sense) took place between person and 
person, was bound to be considered at least bearable; while 
every subordination to more objective claims, every integration 
into a system of impersonal duties (impersonal, because serving 
many and anonymous persons), was bound to be regarded as 
wholly disgraceful. An aversion to the objectivity of law can 
still be felt in the legal theories of Althusius: the summits 
magistratus legislates, but he does so, not because he represents 
the state, but because he is appointed by the people. The notion 
that the ruler could be designated as the representative of the 
state by appointment through law, not by personal appointment 
(actual or presumed) by the people — is still alien to Althusius. 

In antiquity, on the contrary, subordination to law ap- 

252 Subordination under a Principle 

peared thoroughly adequate, precisely because of the idea that 
law is free from any personal characteristics. Aristotle praised 
law as 'Ho meson,'* that is, as that which is moderate, impartial, 
free from passions. Plato, in the same sense, had already recog- 
nized government by impersonal law as the best means for coun- 
teracting selfishness. His, however, was only a psychological 
motivation. It did not touch the core of the question, namely, 
the fundamental transition of the relationship of obedience from 
personalism to objectivism, a transition which cannot be derived 
from the anticipation of utilitarian consequence. Yet, in Plato, 
we also find this other theory: that, in the ideal state, the insight 
of the ruler stands above the law; and as soon as the welfare of 
the whole seems to require it of the ruler, he must be able to act 
even against the laws laid down by him. There must be laws 
which may not be broken under any circumstances, only if 
there are no true statesmen. The law, therefore, appears here 
as the lesser evil — but not, as in the Germanic feeling, men- 
tioned before, because subordination under a person has an 
element of freedom and dignity in comparison with which all 
obedience to laws has something mechanical and passive. 
Rather, it is the rigidity of the law which is felt to be its weak- 
ness: in its rigidity, it confronts the changing and unforeseeable 
claims of life in a clumsy and inadequate way; and this is an 
evil from which only the entirely unprejudiced insight of a 
personal ruler can escape; and only where there is no such in- 
sight, does law become relatively advantageous. Here, therefore, 
it is always the content of the law, its physical state, as it were, 
which determines its value or disvalue as compared with sub- 
ordination under persons. The fact that the relationship of 
obedience is totally different in its inner principle and in terms 
of the whole feeling of life, on the part of the obeyer, according 
to whether it originates in a person or in a law — this fact does 
not enter these considerations. The most general, or formal 
relation between government by law and government by person 
can (of course) be expressed in a preliminary, practical manner 
by saying that where the law is not forceful or broad enough, 
a person is necessary, and where the person is inadequate, the 
law is required. But, far beyond this, whether rule by man is 
considered as something provisional in lieu of rule by perfect 

Subordination under Objects 25S 

law, or, inversely, rule by law is considered a gap-filler or an 
inferior substitute for government by a personality which is 
absolutely qualified to rule — this choice depends upon deci- 
sions of ultimate, indiscussable feelings concerning sociological 

§ 2 . Subordination under Objects 

There is still another form in which an objective principle 
may become the turning point in the relationship between 
super ordinates and subordinates, namely, when neither a law 
nor an ideal norm, but rather a concrete object governs the 
domination, as, for instance, in the principle of patrimony. 
Here — most radically under the system of Russian bondage — 
bonded subjects are only appurtenances of the land — “the air 
bonds the people.” The terrible hardship of bondage at least 
excluded personal slavery which would have permitted the sale 
of the slave. Instead, it tied subordination to the land in such 
a way that the bondsman could be sold only along with the land. 
In spite of all contentual and quantitative differences, neverthe- 
less, sometimes this same form occurs in the case of the modern 
factory worker, whose own interest, through certain arrange- 
ments, binds him to a given factory. For instance, the acquisi- 
tion of his house was made possible for him, or he participated 
out of his own purse in certain welfare expenditures, and all 
these benefits are lost once he leaves the factory, etc. He is thus 
bound, merely by objects, in a way which in a very specific 
manner makes him powerless in respect to the entrepreneur. 
Finally, it was this same form of domination which, under the 
most primitive patriarchal conditions, was governed not by a 
merely spatial, but by a living object: children did not belong 
to the father because he was their progenitor, but because the 
mother belonged to him (as the fruits of the tree belong to the 
tree’s owner); therefore, children begotten by other fathers were 
no less his property. 

This type of domination usually involves a humiliatingly 
harsh and unconditional kind of subordination. For, inasmuch 
as a man is subordinate by virtue of belonging to a thing, he 
himself psychologically sinks to the category of mere thing. With 

254 Subordination under a Principle 

the necessary reservations, one could say that where law regu- 
lates domination, the superordinate belongs in the sphere of 
objectivity; while, where a thing regulates it, the subordinate 
does. The condition of the subordinate, therefore, is usually 
more favorable in the first case, and more unfavorable in the 
second, than in many cases of purely personal subordination. 

§ 3. Conscience 

Immediate sociological interest in subordination under an 
objective principle attaches to two chief cases of it. One case is 
when this ideal, superordinate principle can be interpreted as 
a psychological crystallization of an actual social power. The 
other is when, among those who are commonly subject to it, it 
produces particular and characteristic relationships. The first 
case must be taken into consideration, above all, when dealing 
with moral imperatives. In our moral consciousness, we feel 
subordinate to a command which does not seem to derive from 
any human, personal power. The voice of conscience we hear 
only in ourselves, although in comparison with all subjective 
egoism, we hear it with a force and decisiveness which appar- 
ently can stem only from a tribunal outside the individual. 
An attempt has been made, as is well-known, to solve this con- 
tradiction by deriving the contents of morality from social 
norms. What is useful to the species and the group, the argument 
runs, and what the group, therefore, requests of its members for 
the sake of its own maintenance, is gradually bred into the 
individual as an instinct. He thus comes to contain it in him- 
self, as his own, autonomous feeling, in addition to his personal 
feelings properly speaking, and thus often in contrast to them. 
This, it is alleged, explains the dual character of the moral 
command: that on the one hand, it confronts us as an impersonal 
order to which we simply have to submit, but that, on the other, 
no external power, but only our most private and internal 
impulses, imposes it upon us. At any rate, here is one of the 
cases where the individual, within his own consciousness, repeats 
the relationships which exist between him, as a total personality, 
and the group. It is an old observation that the conceptions of 
the single individual, with all their relations of association and 

Conscience 255 

dissociation, differentiation, and unification, behave in the same 
way in which individuals behave in regard to one another. It is 
merely a peculiar case of this correspondence that those intra- 
psychological relations are repeated, not only between individ- 
uals in general, but also between the individual and his group. 
All that society asks of its members — adaptation and loyalty, 
altruism and work, self-discipline and truthfulness — the indi- 
vidual also asks of himself. 

In all of this, several very important motives cut across one 
another. Society confronts the individual with precepts. He 
becomes habituated to their compulsory character until the 
cruder and subtler means of compulsion are no longer necessary. 
His nature may thereby be so formed or deformed that he acts 
by these precepts as if on impulse, with a consistent and direct 
will which is not conscious of any law. Thus, the pre-Islamic 
Arabs were without any notion of an objectively legal compul- 
sion; in all instances, purely personal decision was their highest 
authority, although this decision was thoroughly imbued with 
tribal consciousness and the requirements of tribal life, which 
gave it its norms. Or else, the law, in the form of a command 
which is carried by the authority of the society, does live in 
the individual consciousness, but irrespective of the question 
whether society actually backs it with its compulsory power or 
even itself supports it solely with its explicit will. Here then, 
the individual represents society to himself. The external con- 
frontation, with its suppressions, liberations, changing accents, 
has become an interplay between his social impulses and the 
ego impulses in the stricter sense of the word; and both are 
included by the ego in the larger sense. 

But this is not yet the really objective lawfulness, indi- 
cated above, in whose consciousness of which no trace of any 
historical-social origin is left. At a certain higher stage of 
morality, the motivation of action lies no longer in a real-human, 
even though super-individual power; at this stage, the spring 
of moral necessities flows beyond the contrast between individ- 
ual and totality. For, as little as these necessities derive from 
society, as little do they derive from the singular reality of 
individual life. In the free conscience of the actor, in individual 
reason, they only have their bearer, the locus of their efficacy. 

256 Subordination under a Principle 

Their power of obligation stems from these necessities them- 
selves, from their inner, super-personal validity, from an ob- 
jective ideality which we must recognize, whether or not we 
want to, in a manner similar to that in which the validity of a 
truth is entirely independent of whether or not the truth be- 
comes real in any consciousness. The content, however, which 
fills these forms is (not necessarily but often) the societal require- 
ment. But this requirement no longer operates by means of its 
social impetus, as it were, but rather as if it had undergone a 
metapsychosis into a norm which must be satisfied for its own 
sake, not for my sake nor for yours. 

We are dealing here with differences which not only are 
psychologically of the greatest delicacy, but whose boundaries 
are also constantly blurred in practice. Yet this mixture of moti- 
vations in which psychic reality moves, makes it all the more 
urgent that it be isolated analytically. Whether society and 
individual confront one another like two powers and the indi- 
vidual’s subordination is effected by society through energy 
which seem to flow from an uninterrupted source and con- 
stantly seems to renew itself; or whether this energy changes into 
a psychological impulse in the very individual who considers 
himself a social being and, therefore, lights and suppresses those 
of his impulses that lean toward his '‘egoistic” part; or whether 
the Ought, which man finds above himself as an actuality as 
objective as Being, is merely filled with the content of societal 
life conditions — these are constellations which only begin to 
exhaust the kinds of individual subordination to the group. 
In them, the three powers which fill historical life — society, 
individual, and objectivity — become norm-giving, in this order. 
But they do so in such a way that each of them absorbs the 
social content, the quantity of superordination of society over 
the individual; in a specific manner, each of them forms and 
presents the power, the will, and the necessities of society. 

§ 4 . Society and ^^Objectivity^* 

Among these three potencies, objectivity can be defined as 
the unquestionably valid law which is enthroned in an ideal 
realm above society and the individual. But it can also be de- 

Society and Objectivity*" 257 

fined in still another dimension, as it were. Society often is the 
third element, which solves conflicts between the individual 
and objectivity or builds bridges where they are disconnected. 
As regards the genesis of cognition, the concept of society has 
liberated us from an alternative characteristic of earlier times, 
namely, that a cultural value either must spring from an indi- 
vidual or must be bestowed upon mankind by an objective 
power — as has been shown by some examples in Chapter 
Practically speaking, it is societal labor by means of which the 
individual can satisfy his claims upon the objective order. The 
cooperation of the many, the efforts of society as a unit, both 
simultaneously and successively, wrest from nature not only a 
greater quantity of need-satisfactions than can be achieved by 
the individual, but also new qualities and types of need-satisfac- 
tions which the labor of the individual alone cannot possibly 
attain. This fact is merely a symbol of the deeper and funda- 
mental phenomenon of society standing between individual 
man and the sphere of general natural laws. As something 
psychologically concrete, society blends with the individual; as 
something general, it blends with nature. It is the general, but 
it is not abstract. To be sure, every historical group is an indi- 
vidual, as is ^very historical human being; but it is this only 
in relation to other groups; for its members, it is super- 
individual. But it is super-individual, not as a concept is in 
regard to its single, concrete realizations, where the concept 
synthesizes what is common to all of them. The group is super- 
individual, rather, in a specific manner of generality — similar 
to the organic body, which is “generaP' above its organs, or to 
“room furniture,” which is “general” above table, chair, chest, 
and mirror. And this specific generality coincides with the 
specific objectivity which society possesses for its members as 

But the individual does not confront society as he confronts 
nature. The objectivity of nature denotes the irrelevance of the 
question of whether or not the subject spiritually participates 
in nature; whether he has a correct, a false, or no conception 
of it. Its being exists, and its laws are valid, independently of 

11 This chapter is not contained in the present volume. See, however. Part One, 
Chapter i, “The Field of Sociology," especially pp. 12-13. — Tr. 

258 Subordination under a Principle 

the significance which either of them may have for any subject. 
Certainly, society, likewise, transcends the individual and lives 
its own life which follows its own laws; it, too, confronts the 
individual with a historical, imperative firmness. Yet, society's 
‘*in front of" the individual is, at the same time, a "within." 
The harsh indifference toward the individual also is an interest: 
social objectivity needs general individual subjectivity, although 
it does not need any particular individual subjectivity. It is 
these characteristics which make society a structure intermediate 
between the subject and an absolutely impersonal generality and 

The following observation, for instance, points in this direc- 
tion. As long as the development of an economy does not yet 
produce objective prices, properly speaking; as long as knowl- 
edge and regulation of demand, offer, production costs, amounts 
at risk, gain, etc., do not yet lead to the idea that a given piece of 
merchandise is worth so much and must have such and such a 
fixed price — so long is the immediate interference of society and 
its organs and laws with the affairs of commerce (particularly 
in regard to the price and stability of commerce) much more 
strong and rigorous than under other conditions. Price taxes, 
the surveillance of quantity and quality of production, and, in 
a larger sense, even sumptuary laws and consumers' obligations, 
often emerged at that stage of economic development at which 
the subjective freedom of commerce strove after stable objec- 
tivity, without, however, yet being able to attain any pure, 
abstract objectivity in determining prices. It is at this stage that 
the concrete generality, the living objectivity of society enters, 
often clumsily, obstructively, schematically, but yet always as a 
super-subjective power which supplies the individual with a 
norm before he derives this norm directly from the structure 
of the matter at issue and its understood regularity. 

On a much larger scale, this same formal development, from 
subordination under society to subordination under objectivity, 
occurs in the intellectual sphere. All of intellectual history shows 
to what extent the individual intellect fills the content of its 
truth-concepts only with traditional, authoritative conceptions 
which are "accepted by all," long before he confronts the object 
directly and derives the content of the truth-concepts from its 

Society and ‘'Objectivity** 259 

objectivity. Initially, the support and the norm of the inquiring 
mind are not the object, whose immediate observation and 
interpretation the mind is entirely unable to manipulate, but 
the general opinion of the object. It is this general opinion 
which mediates theoretical conceptions, from the silliest super- 
stition to the subtlest prejudices, which almost entirely conceal 
the lacking independence of their recipient and the un-objective 
nature of their contents. It seems as if man could not easily bear 
looking the object in the eye; as if he were equal neither to the 
rigidity of its lawfulness nor to the freedom which the object, 
in contrast to all coercion coming from men, gives him. By com- 
parison, to bow to the authority of the many or their representa- 
tives, to traditional opinion, to socially accepted notions, is 
something intermediate. Traditional opinion, after all, is more 
modifiable than is the law of the object; in it, man can feel 
some psychological mediation; it transmits, as it were, something 
which is already digested psychologically. At the same time, it 
gives us a hold, a relief from responsibility — the compensation 
for the lack of that autonomy which we derive from the purely 
intrinsic relationship between ego and object. 

The concept of objective justice, no less than the concept of 
truth, finds ite intermediate stage, which leads toward the ob- 
jective sense of “justice,** in social behavior. In the field of 
criminal law, as well as in all other regulations of life, the 
correlation between guilt and expiation, merit and reward, 
service and counter-service, is first, evidently, a matter of social 
expediency or of social impulses. Perhaps the equivalence of 
action and reaction, in which justice consists, is never an analyt- 
ical equivalence directly resulting from these elements, but 
always requires a third element, an ideal, a purpose, a norm- 
setting situation, in which the first two elements create or 
demonstrate their mutual correspondence synthetically. Origi- 
nally, this third element consists in the interests and forms of 
the general life which surrounds the individuals, that is, the 
subjects of the realization of justice. This general life creates, 
and acts on, the criteria of justice or injustice in the relation 
between action and reaction — of justice or injustice which can- 
not be ascertained in the action-and-reaction in isolation. Above 
this process, and mediated by it, there rises, at an objectively 

260 Subordination under a Principle 

and historically later stage, the necessity of the ‘‘just** corre- 
spondence between action and reaction, a correspondence which 
emerges in the comparison of these two elements themselves. 
This higher norm, which perhaps even in this later phase con- 
tinues to determine weight and counter-weight according to its 
own scale, is completely absorbed by the elements themselves; 
it has become a value which seems to originate with them and 
operates out of them. Justice now appears as an objective rela- 
tionship which follows necessarily from the intrinsic significance 
of sin and pain, good deed and happiness, offer and response. 
It must be realized for its own sake: fiat justitia, pereat mundus. 
It was, by contrast, the very preservation of the world which, 
from the earlier standpoint, constituted the ground of justice. 
Whatever the ideal sense of justice may be (which is not the 
topic of discussion here), the objective law, in which justice, 
purely for its own sake, embodies itself, and which claims com- 
pliance in its own right, is historically and psychologically a 
later stage of development. It is preceded, prepared, and 
mediated by the claim to justice stemming from merely social 

This same development, finally, prevails within the moral 
sphere, in the stricter sense of this term. The original content 
of morality is of an altruistic-social nature. The idea is not that 
morality has its own life independent of this content and merely 
absorbs it. Rather, the devotion of the to the “thou** (in 
the singular or plural) is the very idea, the definition, of the 
moral. Philosophical doctrines of ethics represent, by compari- 
son, a much later phase. In them, an absolutely objective 
Ought is separated from the question of “I** and “thou.** 
If it is important to Plato that the Idea of the Good be 
realized; to Kant, that the principle of individual action be 
suitable as a general law; to Nietzsche, that the human species 
transcend its momentary stage of development; then, occasion- 
ally, these norms may also refer to reciprocal relations among 
individuals. But, essentially this is no longer important. What 
is important is the realization of an objective law, which not 
only leaves behind the subjectivity of the actor but also the 
subjectivity of the individuals whom the action may concern. 
For, now, even the reference to the societal complex of the sub- 

The Effect of Subordination under a Principle 261 

jects is merely an accidental satisfaction of a much more general 
norm and obligation, which may legitimate socially and altru- 
istically oriented action, but may also refuse to do so. In the 
development of the individual as of the species, ethical obedi- 
ence to the claims of the “thou*' and of society characterizes 
the first emergence from the pre-ethical stage of naive egoism. 
Innumerable individuals never go beyond obedience to the 
“thou.** But, in principle, this stage is preparatory and transitory 
to subordination under an objectively ethical law, which trans- 
cends the “I” as much as the “thou,** and only on its own initia- 
tive admits the interests of the one or the other as ethical 

§ 5 . The Effect of Subordination under a Principle 
upon the Relations between Superordinates 
and Subordinates 

The second sociological question in regard to subordination 
under an impersonal-ideal principle concerns the effect of this 
common subordination upon the reciprocal relations among 
the subordinates. Here, also, it must above all be remembered 
that ideal subordination is often preceded by real subordina- 
tion. We frequently find that a person or class exerts super- 
ordination in the name of an ideal principle to which the person 
or class themselves are allegedly subordinated. This principle, 
therefore, seems to be logically prior to the social arrangement; 
the actual organization of domination among people seems to 
develop in consequence of that ideal dependency. Historically, 
however, the road has usually run in the opposite direction. 
Superordinations and subordinations develop out of very real, 
personal power relations. Through the spiritualization of the 
superordinate power or through the enlargement and de-per- 
sonalization of the whole relationship, there gradually grows 
an ideal, objective power over and above these superordinations 
and subordinations. The superordinate then exerts his power 
merely in the capacity of the closest representative of this ideal, 
objective force. 

These successive processes are shown very distinctly in the 
development of the position of pater familias among the Aryans. 

262 Subordination under a Principle 

Originally — this is how the type is presented to us — his power 
was unlimited and wholly subjective. That is, the pater familias 
decided all arrangements by momentary whim and in terms of 
personal advantage. Yet this arbitrary power was gradually re- 
placed by a feeling of responsibility. The unity of the family 
group, embodied (for instance) in the spiritus familiaris, became 
an ideal force, in reference to which even the master of the whole 
felt himself to be merely an executor and obeyer. It is in this 
sense that custom and habit, rather than subjective preference, 
determined his actions, his decisions, and judicial decrees; that 
he no longer behaved as the unconditional master of the family 
property, but rather as its administrator in the interest of the 
whole; that his position had more the character of an office than 
that of an unlimited right. The relation between superordinates 
and subordinates was thus placed upon an entirely new basis. 
Whereas, at the first stage, the subordinates constituted, so to 
speak, only a personal appurtenance of the superordinates, later 
there prevailed the objective idea of the family which stands 
above all individuals and to which the leading patriarch is as 
much subordinated as is every other member. The patriarch can 
give orders to the other members of the family only in the name 
of that ideal unit. 

Here we encounter an extremely important form- type, 
namely, that the very commander subordinates himself to the 
law which he has made. The moment his will becomes law, it 
attains objective character, and thus separates itself from its 
subjective-personal origin. As soon as the ruler gives the law 
as law, he documents himself, to this extent, as the organ of an 
ideal necessity. He merely reveals a norm which is plainly valid 
on the ground of its inner sense and that of the situation, 
whether or not the ruler actually enunciates it. What is more, 
even if instead of this more or less distinctly conceived legitima- 
tion, the will of the ruler itself becomes law, even then the ruler 
cannot avoid transcending the sphere of subjectivity: for in this 
case, he carries the super-personal legitimation a priori in him- 
self, so to speak. In this way, the inner form of law brings it 
about that the law-giver, in giving the law, subordinates himself 
to it as a person, in the same way as all others. Thus, the 
Privileges of the medieval Flemish cities stated expressly that 

The Effect of Subordination under a Principle 26S 

the jurors must give everybody a fair trial, including even the 
Count who had bestowed this privilege upon the city. And such 
a sovereign ruler as the Great Elector introduced a head-tax 
without asking the estates for their consent — but then he not 
only made his court pay it, but he also paid it himself. 

The most recent history gives an example of the growth of 
an objective power, to which the person, who is originally and 
subsequently in command, must subordinate himself in common 
with his subordinates. The example is formally related to the 
case cited from the history of the family. In modern economic 
production, objective and technical elements dominate over 
personal elements. In earlier times, many superordinations and 
subordinations had a personal character, so that in a given rela- 
tionship, one person simply was superordinate, and the other 
subordinate. Many of these super-subordinations have changed 
in the sense that both superordinates and subordinates alike 
stand under an objective purpose; and it is only within this 
common relationship to the higher principle that the subordina- 
tion of the one to the other continues to exist as a technical 
necessity. As long as the relationship of wage labor is conceived 
of as a rental contract (in which the worker is rented), it contains 
as an essential element the worker’s subordination to the entre- 
preneur. But, once the work contract is considered, not as the 
renting of a person, but as the purchase of a piece of merchan- 
dise, that is, labor, then this element of personal subordination 
is eliminated. In this case, the subordination which the employer 
requests of the worker is only — so it has been expressed — sub- 
ordination ‘*under the cooperative process, a subordination as 
compulsive for the entrepreneur, once he engages in any ac- 
tivity at all, as for the worker.” The worker is no longer subject 
as a person but only as the servant of an objective, economic pro- 
cedure. In this process, the element which in the form of entre- 
preneur or manager is superordinated to the worker, operates 
no longer as a personal element but only as one necessitated by 
objective requirements. 

The increased self-feeling of the modern worker must, at 
least partly, be connected with this process, which shows its 
purely sociological character also in the circumstance that it 
often has no influence upon the material welfare of the laborer. 

264 Subordination under a Principle 

He merely sells a quantitatively defined service, which may be 
smaller or larger than what was required of him under the 
earlier, personal arrangement. As a man, he thus frees himself 
from the relationship of subordination, to which he belongs 
only as an element in the process of production; and to this ex- 
tent, he is coordinate with those who direct the production. 
This technical objectivity has its symbol in the legal objectivit\ 
of the contract relation: once the contract is concluded, it stands 
as an objective norm above both parties. In the Middle Ages, 
this phenomenon marked the turning point in the condition 
of the journeyman, which originally implied full personal sub- 
ordination under the master: the journeyman was generally 
called “servant” [Knecht]. The gathering of journeymen in 
their own estate was centered upon the attempt at transforming 
the personal-service relationship into a contractual relationship: 
as soon as the organization of the “servants” was achieved, their 
name, most characteristically, was replaced by that of “journey- 
men.” In general, it is relative coordination, instead of absolute 
subordination, which is correlated with the contractual form, 
no matter what the material content of the contract may be. 

This form further strengthens its objective character if the 
contract is not concluded between individuals, but consists in 
collective regulations between a group of workers on the one 
side, and a group of employers on the other. It has been de- 
veloped especially by the English Trade Unions, which in cer- 
tain, highly advanced industries conclude contracts regarding 
wage rates, working time, overtime, holidays, etc., with associa- 
tions of entrepreneurs. These contracts may not be ignored by 
any sub-contract that might be made between individual mem- 
bers of these larger categories. In this manner, the impersonality 
of the labor relationship is evidently increased to an extraor- 
dinary degree. The objectivity of this relationship finds an 
appropriate instrument and expression in the super-individual 
collectivity. This objective character, finally, is assured in an 
even more specific manner if the contracts are concluded for 
very brief periods. English Trade Unions have always urged 
this brevity, in spite of the increased insecurity which results 
from it. The explanation of the recommendation has been that 
the worker distinguishes himself from the slave by the right to 

The Effect of Subordination under a Principle 265 

leave his place of work; but, if he surrenders this right for a 
long time, he is, for the whole duration of this period, subject 
to all conditions which the entrepreneur imposes upon him, 
with the exception of those expressly stipulated; and he has lost 
the protection offered him by his right to suspend the relation- 
ship. Instead of the breadth, or comprehensiveness, of the bond 
which in earlier times committed the total personality, there 
emerges, if the contract lasts very long, the length. Or duration, 
of the bond. In the case of short contracts, objectivity is guaran- 
teed, not by something positive, but only by the necessity of 
preventing the objectively regulated contractual relationship 
from changing into a relationship determined by subjective 
arbitrariness — ^whereas in the case of long contracts there is no 
corresponding, sufficient protection. 

In the condition of domestic servants — at least, on the whole, 
in contemporary central Europe — it is still the total individual, 
so to speak, who enters the subordination. Subordination has 
not yet attained the objectivity of an objectively, clearly circum- 
scribed service. From this circumstance derive the chief inade- 
quacies inherent in the institution of domestic service. This 
institution does approach that more perfect form when it is 
replaced by services of persons who perform only certain, ob- 
jective functions in the house, and who are, to this extent, 
coordinated with the housewife. The earlier, but still existing, 
relationship involved them as total personalities and obliged 
them — as is most strikingly shown by the concept of the “all- 
around girl” ['*Mddchen fur alles **] — to “unlimited services*': 
they became subordinate to the housewife as a person, precisely 
because there were no objective delimitations. Under thoroughly 
patriarchal (as contrasted with contemporary) conditions, the 
“house" is considered an objective, intrinsic purpose and value, 
in behalf of which housewife and servants cooperate. This re- 
sults, even if there is a completely personal subordination, in a 
certain coordination sustained by the interest which the servant, 
who is solidly and permanently connected with the house, 
usually feels for it. The “thou," used in addressing him, on the 
one hand gives expression to his personal subordination, but 
on the other, makes him comparable to the children of the house 
and thus ties him more closely to its organization. Strangely 

266 Subordination under a Principle 

enough, it thus appears that in some measure, obedience to an 
objective idea occurs at the extreme stages in the development 
of obedience: under the condition of full patriarchal subordina- 
tion, where the house still has, so to speak, an absolute value, 
which is served by the work of the housewife (though in a higher 
position) as well as by that of the servant; and then, under the 
condition of complete differentiation, where service and reward 
are objectively pre-deter mined, and the personal attachment, 
which characterizes the stage of an undefined quantity of sub- 
ordination, has become extraneous to the relationship. The 
contemporary position of the servant who shares his master’s 
house, particularly in the large cities, has lost the first of these 
two kinds of objectivity, without having yet attained the second. 
The total personality of the servant is no longer claimed by 
the objective idea of the ‘"house”; and yet, in view of the general 
way in which his services are requested, it cannot really separate 
itself from it. 

Finally, this form-type may be illustrated by the relationship 
between officers and common soldiers. Here, the cleavage be- 
tween subordination within the organization of the group, and 
coordination which results from common service in defense of 
one’s country, is as wide as can be imagined. Understandably 
enough, the cleavage is most noticeable at the front. On the one 
hand, discipline is most merciless there, but on the other hand, 
fellowship between officers and privates is furthered, partly by 
specific situations, partly by the general mood. During peace- 
time, the army remains arrested in the position of a means which 
does not attain its purposes; it is, therefore, inevitable for its 
technical structure to grow into a psychologically ultimate aim, 
so that super-subordination, on which the technique of the or- 
ganization is based, stands in the foreground of consciousness. 
The peculiar sociological mixture with coordination, which 
results from the common subordination under an objective idea, 
becomes important only when the changed situation calls atten- 
tion to this idea, as the real purpose of the army. 

Within the group organization of his specific content of life, 
the individual thus occupies a superordinate or subordinate 
position. But the group as a whole stands under a dominating 
idea which gives each of its members an equal, or nearly equal. 

The Effect of Subordination under a Principle 267 

position in comparison with all outsiders. Hence, the individual 
has a double role which makes his purely formal, sociological 
situation the vehicle for peculiarly mixed life-feelings. The em- 
ployee of a large business may have a leading position in his firm, 
which he lets his subalterns feel in a superior and imperious way. 
But, as soon as he confronts the public, and acts under the idea 
of his business as a whole, he will exhibit serviceable and devout 
behavior. In the opposite direction, these elements are inter- 
woven in the frequent haughtiness of subalterns, servants in 
noble houses, members of decimated intellectual or social circles, 
who actually stand at the periphery of these groups, but to the 
outsider represent all the more energetically the dignity of the 
whole circle and of its idea. For, the kind of positive relation 
to the circle which they have, gives them only a semi-solid posi- 
tion in it, internally and externally; and they seek to improve 
it in a negative way, by differentiating themselves from others. 
The richest formal variety of this type is offered, perhaps, by the 
Catholic hierarchy. Although every member of it is bound by 
a blind obedience which admits of no contradiction, neverthe- 
less, in comparison with the layman, even the lowest member 
stands at an absolute elevation, where the idea of the eternal 
God rises above all temporal matters. At the same time, the 
highest member of this hierarchy confesses himself to be the 
‘‘servant of servants.*' The monk, who within his order may have 
absolute power, dresses himself in deepest humility and servility 
in the face of a beggar; but the lowest brother of an order is 
superior to the secular prince by all the absolute sovereignty 
of church authority. 

Chapter 5 

Superordination and 
Subordination and Degrees of 
Domination and Freedom 


through the phenomena of superordination and subordination 
which has been presented, was arranged in terms of the question 
regarding the exercise of domination by one or by many, and 
by persons or by objective structures. But another cross-section 
can be made in addition. This second viewpoint focuses upon 
the sociological significance of the degree of domination, espe- 
cially upon the correlation of varying degrees of it with freedom 
and its conditions. The following investigations are oriented 
along this second line. 

§ 1 . Superordination without Subordinates 

A group may contain numerous and highly articulated 
superordinations and subordinations, either in a single hier- 
archical structure or in a variety of co-existing relationships of 
domination. In either case, the group, as a whole, will derive 
its character, essentially, from subordination; as is shown with 
particular clarity in states that are governed bureaucratically. 
For the social layers expand downward in quick progression. 
In other words, where super-subordination stands at all in the 
foreground of formal sociological consciousness, the quantita- 
tively preponderant side of this relationship, that is, of subordi- 
nation, will color the whole picture. On the basis of very special 
combinations, however, there may also emerge the impression 
and the feeling that the whole group is superordinate. Thus, 


Subordination without Subordinates 269 

Spanish pride and contempt of labor stemmed from the fact 
that for a long time the Spaniards used the subjugated Moors 
as laborers. When they later destroyed the Moors (and expelled 
the Jews), they yet retained the air of superordinates, although 
there no longer were any corresponding subordinates. At the 
time of their highest splendor, it was explicitly stated among the 
Spaniards that, as a nation, they wished to occupy a position in 
the world such as is occupied by noblemen, officers, and officials 
within the single state. Something similar, but on a more solid 
basis, had already appeared in the Spartan warrior democracy. 
Sparta subjugated the neighboring tribes without enslaving 
them, but, instead, left them their land and only treated them 
as serfs. These subjects grew together into a low stratum in com- 
parison with which the totality of the full citizens formed a 
lordly class, however much procedures within this class were 
democratic. This was not a simple aristocracy which, from the 
beginning, constituted a homogeneous group along with the less 
privileged elements. It was, in fact, the whole original state 
which, without changing its status quo, underpinned itself with 
a layer of conquered peoples, and thus made the totality of its 
members into a sort of nobility. The Spartans repeated this 
principle of general superordination even in a more special re- 
spect: their army was graded in such a way that, in large part, it 
consisted of commanding officers. 

We encounter here a peculiar sociological form-type: where 
characteristics of an element can originate only in the relation 
between this and another element, and can derive their content 
and significance only from this relation; yet these characteristics 
come to be essential qualities of the element and no longer 
depend on any interaction. The fact that one is the ruler pre- 
supposes an object of one's domination; yet the psychological 
reality can, to a certain extent, evade this conceptual necessity. 
One of the motives, the inner motive which underlies this possi- 
bility, is already alluded to by Plato. Plato maintained that domi- 
nation as such, as a function, is always the same, in spite of the 
innumerable differences in its extent and content. It is one and 
the same capacity to command which must be possessed by the po- 
litikos [statesman] and the basileus [king], by the despdtes [mas- 
ter] and the oikonomos [house steward]. For this reason, accord- 

270 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

ing to Plato, the real statesman is not necessarily the executive of 
the highest state power, but he who possesses the '‘science of com- 
mand’' — no matter whether or not he actually has something to 
command. Plato thus goes back to the subjective ground of the 
relationship of domination. This ground is not created with the 
actual realization of a given case of domination, but exists irre- 
spective of the existence of such a realization. The “born king” 
does not need a country, so to speak, he is king; he does not have 
to become king. If the Spartans did not develop a nobility among 
themselves and yet felt like noblemen, and if the Spaniards had 
the air of lords even though they no longer had any servants, 
these phenomena have their deeper significance in the fact 
that the reciprocal effects of the relationship of domination is 
the sociological expression or actualization of inner qualities 
of the subject. Whoever has these, is ruler by this very fact. One 
side of the two-sided relationship of domination has been taken 
out of it, as it were, and the reciprocal relation exists only in an 
ideal form; but the other side does not thereby lose its intrinsic 
significance for the relationship. 

If this process occurs in all members of a larger group, it 
finds expression in their reciprocal designation as “equals,” a 
designation which does not specifically stress with respect to 
what the equality exists. The citizens of Sparta who were en- 
titled to vote, were simply called the homoioi [similar ones]. 
The aristocratic character of their political and economic posi- 
tion over that of the other strata was self-evident. To designate 
themselves, therefore, they used only their formal relation to 
one another and did not even mention their relationship to 
other strata, which, nevertheless, ought to have constituted the 
content of the rank designation. A similar feeling is at the bottom 
of the situation wherever aristocracies call themselves “peers.” 
They exist, as it were, only for one another: others do not con- 
cern them even to the extent where the designation of the col- 
lectivity would express their superiority over them — and yet, 
it is for the sake of this superiority that such a designation is 


12 This is merely an example of a general sociological phenomenon. A number 
of elements, making up a group, often have the same relation in regard to a certain 
point which gives content and significance to the group interest in question. Some- 

Subordination without Subordinates 271 

There is a second way in which the idea of superordination, 
without the logically required correlate of any corresponding 
subordination, may be realized. This is found when forms, 
which were developed in a large circle, are applied to a small 
group whose conditions themselves do not justify the forms. 
Certain positions within an extensive group involve a power, 
a quantity of superordination, a significance, all of which are 
lost as soon as these positions, without changing their form, are 
repeated in a smaller circle. Nevertheless, even into the smaller 
group, they introduce the note of superiority and command 
which they possessed in the larger organization. This note, as it 
were, has become a substantive quality of such a position; the 
quality no longer depends upon the relationship which en- 
gendered it originally. In this process, the mediating element 
is frequently a ‘'title,** which in narrow conditions is often left 
with hardly a trace of its power, but which retains the aplomb 
conferred upon it by its origin in a larger group. In the fifteenth 
century, the Dutch Rederykers, a sort of master-singers, had 
kings, princes, archdeacons, etc., in each of their many groups. 

times, this decisive point on which the elements converge is absent in any designa- 
tion of the group, perhaps even in the consciousness of the members; and, although 
they are equal only in regard to that one point, nevertheless, equality alone is 
stressed. It has alreafly been mentioned that noblemen often designate themselves 
as “peers." In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, many French cities called their 
jurymen and jurors by this same name. When the **Ges€llschaft fiir ethische Kul- 
tur** [Society for Ethical Culture] was to be organized in Berlin, a brochure ap- 
peared which was entitled “Preparatory Communications of a Circle of Like- 
Minded Men and Women." Nothing indicated in regard to what their minds were 
alike. In 1905, or thereabouts, a party was formed in the Spanish Chamber which 
simply designated itself as the “Party of the Solidary." In the 'nineties, a faction of 
the Munich artists’ association called itself “the group of the colleagues," without 
adding to this title, which they used quite officially, what constituted the content 
of the collegiate relationship and what distinguished this group from an organiza- 
tion of colleagues among school teachers, actors, agents, or editors. These trivial 
episodes contain the sociologically very striking fact that the formal relation among 
certain individuals may supersede the content and purpose of this relation. For, 
this could not occur in all these designations if they did not somehow reveal the 
direction of the sociological consciousness. The fact that the elements of a group 
have equal rights or like minds, or are colleagues, gains an extraordinary impor- 
tance in comparison with any materials that are clothed in these sociological forms, 
although the forms make sense only on the basis of the materials. And however 
much the practical behavior is determined by the material not contained in the 
title, nevertheless (as a closer study of such groups shows), it is, in innumerable 
cases, also determined by the orientation toward these pure forms of relation- 
ship and toward these formal structures, and by the effect of them. 

272 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

I call attention to the “officers’* of the Salvation Army, and to the 
“high degrees” of Freemasonry: in 1756, a chapter of the French 
Freemasons declared its members “sovereign and born princes 
of the whole order”; another chapter, a little later, called itself 
the **Conseil des Empereurs d*Orient et d'Occident/' 

But it is, of course, not only a change in the purely extensive, 
numerical size of the groups that effects the application of an 
originally superordinate position to conditions which leave it 
with the stamp of superordination, while yet eliminating the 
logically required subordination. Contractions in the intensity 
of the group life also may bring this about. What destroyed the 
whole Hellenic existence during the Empire was the shrinkage 
of its range of significance, the loss of all deeper or far-reaching 
content. But yet, an ambition which borrowed its ideals from the 
great past, a feeling that it was possible or necessary to preserve 
some kind of superiority, did survive that lost past. Thus orig- 
inated an empty ambition which eventually suggested a feeling 
of significance and prerogative, without any real superiority, to 
the victor in the Olympiads, to an insignificant community 
official, to the holder of a chair of honor or of a distinction (with 
perhaps a statue erected in his honor), or to the orator who 
had political influence, but was acclaimed with exultation only 
for his rhetoric, by a public of loiterers. On the basis of its real 
structure, the Greek society of the time could not have pro- 
duced elevation above the average to which the social advantages 
and privileges of this class of persons were raised. Derived from 
the original significance of the community, which alone gave 
such superiorities a basis, they were now cut down to much 
smaller proportions, without changing their dimensions. Be- 
cause of their very lack of content, they made possible a general 
mania for socially elevated positions which lacked all down- 
ward correlates. 

Here we find, among other things, though in a certain sense 
inversely, a strange trait, which is interwoven with many human 
actions. It is shown in great purity by primitive “sympathetic 
magic.” Man believes that he can evoke phenomena which lie 
outside the sphere of human power, by himself producing them 
on a smaller scale. Among many different peoples, the pouring 
of water is a strong rain magic. The power of the general idea 

Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 273 

is everywhere so pervasive that any minimal or one-sided realiza- 
tion of it seems to appropriate the idea; and, along with it, its 
reality on much higher levels of extensity and intensity. A cer- 
tain aspect of '‘authority’* shows us a special modification of the 
type of behavior at issue here. The inner preponderance which 
somebody has attained on the grounds of a particular achieve- 
ment or quality, helps him very often gain "authority” in ques- 
tions, matters, and directions which are entirely unrelated to his 
actually demonstrated superiority. Here too, therefore, the par- 
tially existing and partially justified "superordination” is trans- 
mitted to a general relationship, which lacks the correlate of a 
really "mastered” field. The paradoxical phenomenon of the 
stratum which has become superordinate in an absolute sense, 
and which lacks the logically required quantity of subordina- 
tion — but has absorbed it, as it were, or possesses it only ideally 
— is seen here merely in another context. 

§ 2 . Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 

I began by saying that a group as a whole may have the char- 
acter of subordination without containing, in any practical and 
tangible way, a corresponding measure of superordination. The 
cases discussed form the counterpart of this phenomenon: in 
them, a superordination appears to exist as if it were an absolute 
quality, not based on any corresponding measure of subordina- 
tion. Yet this is a rare form: the more general opposite of the first 
type is the freedom of all. If liberation from subordination is 
examined more closely, however, it almost always reveals itself 
as, at the same time, a gain in domination — either in regard to 
those previously superordinate, or in regard to a newly formed 
stratum that is destined to definitive subordination. Thus the 
greatest English constitutional historian notes at one point in 
reference to the "Quarrel of Puritanism”: "Like every other 
struggle for liberty it ended in being a struggle for supremacy.” 
This general schema, of course, does not often realize itself in 
pure form, but rather (for the most part) as one tendency among 
many others operating at the same time, in fragmentary, dis- 
torted, modified forms, in which, nevertheless, the fundamental 
will to substitute superordination for freedom can always be 

274 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

recognized. I now turn to the principal types of this tendency. 

For the Greek citizen, in the field of politics, the two values, 
superordination and freedom, could not even be clearly sepa- 
rated. He lacked the sphere of individual law which would have 
protected him from the claims and the arbitrariness even of the 
community, that sphere which would have guaranteed him con- 
stitutional freedom even in regard to the state. Freedom, there- 
fore, properly existed in only one form: as participation in state 
government itself. In its sociological type, this corresponds pre- 
cisely to the communistic movements of antiquity, which did 
not aim at the abolition of private property but at the greater 
participation in it on the part of the disinherited. This basic 
form of behavior is repeated even in the lowest stratum, where 
it is impossible to speak of gaining any superiority: nevertheless, 
the Greek slave uprisings hardly ever aimed at breaking the slave 
fetters in general but, rather, at reducing their tightness and 
making them more bearable. The uprisings stemmed from rebel- 
lion against individual abuses of the institution of slavery, rather 
than from the desire to abolish the institution altogether. 

It makes a characteristic difference whether the protection 
from dangers, the arrest of evils, or the winning of cherished 
values, is to be attained by means of abolishing the sociological 
form that bred these evils, or whether it is to be attained within 
this form, which is thereby preserved. Where the general condi- 
tions based on super-subordination are very solid, the liberation 
of the subordinates often does not entail general freedom — which 
would presuppose a fundamental change of the social form — 
but only the rise of the subordinates into the ruling stratum. 
The process contains a logical contradiction leading to practical 
contradictions — a point which will be discussed later. The out- 
come of the French Revolution for the Third Estate — in appear- 
ance only the liberation of that estate from the privileges of the 
privileged — involved the gain of superordination in the two 
senses of the term indicated. By means of its economic power, 
the Third Estate made the other, previously higher estates de- 
pendent upon itself; but, this effect, and the whole emancipa- 
tion of the Third Estate, derived its rich content and its impor- 
tant consequences only because there existed (or, rather, there 
was formed in the same process) a Fourth Estate which the Third 

Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 275 

could exploit and above which it could rise. For this reason, one 
can by no means draw the simple analogy that today the Fourth 
Estate wishes to do what the Third had done at that earlier 

Freedom here shows its connection with equality, even 
though, at the same time, the unavoidable breakdown of this 
connection. To the extent that general freedom prevails, there 
also prevails general equality. For, general freedom only entails 
the negative fact that there is no domination. This characteristic, 
because of its negativity, may be common to elements which in 
all other respects are highly differentiated. But equality, al- 
though appearing as the first consequence or accident of free- 
dom, actually is only the point of transition through which 
human insatiability must pass once it seizes the oppressed masses. 
Typically speaking, nobody is satisfied with the position which 
he occupies in regard to his fellow creatures; everybody wishes 
to attain one which is, in some sense, more favorable. Thus, if 
the majority which got the worst of a situation feel a desire for 
a heightened style of life, the expression which most easily sug- 
gests itself to them will be the wish to have, and be, the same as 
the upper ten thousand. Equality with the superior is the first 
objective which offers itself to the impulse of one’s own eleva- 
tion. This is shown in any kind of small circle, in school classes, 
groups of merchants, or bureaucratic hierarchies. It is one of 
the reasons why the resentment of the proletarian usually does 
not turn against the highest classes, but against the bourgeois. 
For it is the bourgeois whom the proletarian sees immediately 
above himself, and who represents to him that rung of the ladder 
of fortune which he must climb first and on which, therefore, 
his consciousness and his desire for elevation momentarily con- 

As the first step, the inferior wants to be the equal of the 
superior. But a myriad of experiences show that once he is his 
equal, this condition, which previously was the essential aim 
of his endeavor, is merely a starting point for a further effort; 
it is the first station on the unending road toward the most 
favored position. Wherever an attempt is made at effecting 
equalization, the individual’s striving to surpass others comes 
to the fore in all possible forms on the newly reached stage. 

276 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

Equality, which is logically entailed by freedom as long as free- 
dom operates in its pure and negative sense of mere not-being- 
dominated, is by no means the definitive intent of freedom. Yet 
man’s inclination to take an immediately required or attain- 
able step in realizing his aims for the ultimately satisfactory step, 
has often deluded him into believing this. In fact, a naive con- 
fusion places superiority directly alongside equality, although 
freedom pushes man far beyond it. Whether authentic or not, 
the remark which a woman coalheaver made to an elegantly 
dressed lady in 1848 is typically true: ‘Tes, Madam, now every- 
thing will become equal: I shall go dressed in silk, and you will 
heave coals!” 

This is the inevitable result of what has already been men- 
tioned before, namely, that one not only wants to have freedom, 
but also wants to use it for some purpose. Thus, the “freedom 
of the church” usually does not consist in the liberation from 
superordinate secular powers alone, but, through this libera- 
tion, in dominion over these powers. The church’s liberty of 
teaching, for instance, means that the state obtains citizens who 
are inculcated by the church and stand under its suggestion; 
whereby the state comes often enough under the domination of 
the church. It has been said of medieval class privileges that 
they often were a means for helping to gain the freedom of 
all, including the non-privileged, under a condition of tyranni- 
cal pressure exerted upon all. But, once this freedom is attained, 
the continued existence of privilege operates in a sense which 
once more reduces general freedom. The freedom of the privi- 
leged produces a situation whose inner structure, to be sure, 
entails as its consequence or condition the freedom of all. But, 
latently, this freedom carries within itself the preferential treat- 
ment of the very elements from which it originated. Given the 
freedom of movement which has been gained in modern times, 
this preferential treatment is, eventually, actuated once more; 
that is, it again restricts the freedom of all others. 

This complement of freedom, domination, attains a special 
form where the issue is the freedom of a group within a larger 
association, especially the state. Historically, such freedom often 
presents itself as the autonomous, more or less comprehensive 
jurisdiction of that group. Here, therefore, freedom refers to 

Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 277 

the fact that the group as a whole, as a super-individual unit, 
is master over its individual members. The decisive point is not 
that the group has the right to impose anything particularly 
arbitrary upon its members — this alone would not fundamen- 
tally subordinate them to it — but that it has the general right 
to have its own law. For, this right equalizes the group with the 
larger association which administers law in general and thus 
unconditionally subjects all who belong to it. Customarily, 
therefore, the narrower group makes sure with great rigor that 
its members subject themselves to its jurisdiction, because it 
knows that its own freedom is based on this subjection. In 
medieval Denmark, a guild brother could seek his right against 
his fellow only before a guild court. He was not prevented by 
external force from seeking such right, in addition, before the 
public court, the king’s or the bishop’s; but where the guild 
did not expressly permit this, it was considered wrong as regards 
both the guild and the guild brother concerned, and was thus 
sanctioned by fines to be paid to both. The city of Frankfort had 
received the privilege from the Emperors that no outside court 
would ever be resorted to against its citizens. In consequence of 
this privilege, a Frankfort citizen was arrested, in 1396, because 
he had sued fellow resident debtors before an outside court. 

Freedom can always have the two aspects, of representing 
an esteem, a right, a power, on the one hand, and an exclusion 
and a contemptuous indifference on the part of the higher 
power, on the other. It is therefore no negative case to the argu- 
ment presented here, if the autonomous jurisdiction enjoyed 
by medieval Jews in case of legal quarrels among one another, 
appears to have embodied a certain degradation and neglect. 
The situation of the Eastern Roman Jews under the Empire 
was quite different. Strabo, for instance, reports of the Alex- 
andrian Jews that they had their own Chief Justice who decided 
their trials. This special legal position became a source of hatred 
against the Jews, because the Jews asserted that their religion 
claimed a particular jurisdiction possessed only by them. The 
tendency appears even more pointedly in the case reported from 
medieval Cologne where, for a short time, the Jews had the 
privilege of having a Jewish judge decide trials even against 

278 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

In such situations, the individual member of the group was 
perhaps no freer than he would have been under the law of 
the land, but yet the totality of the group enjoyed a freedom 
which the other citizens of the state felt to be an ostentatious 
exemption. The privilege of a group with its own jurisdiction is 
by no means based on the peculiar content of the law adminis- 
tered by it; the fact that its members are subject only to this 
law is formally already a freedom. The heads of the guilds fought 
the collective jurisdiction of journeymen's organizations even 
where the content of this jurisdiction was slight — concerning, 
for instance, the maintenance of decency and good morals. But 
they knew very well that the moral censorship, which was codi- 
fied and exercised by these organizations, gave the journeymen 
a consciousness of solidarity, of class honor, of organized in- 
dependence, which constituted a support against the masters 
and made the journeymen feel that they firmly belonged to- 
gether. The heads of the guilds knew that the essential point 
was this sociological form; and, that if they once conceded it, 
the further extension of its contents depended only on the 
power relations and economic conditions of the moment. The 
general content of this freedom of the whole is the subjection of 
the individual. It does not necessarily involve, therefore, his 
materially greater freedom (as has already been suggested). The 
doctrine of the people's sovereignty, as over against the prince's 
— a doctrine which emerged during the Middle Ages — by no 
means implied the freedom of the individual, but the freedom of 
the church, rather than that of the State, to reign over him. And 
when, in the sixteenth century, the Monarchomachists took over 
the idea of the sovereign people, and based government upon 
a sort of private legal contract between them and the ruler, they 
did not intend to liberate the individual but, on the contrary, to 
subject it to domination by religion and social rank. 

In fact, the eminent interest of the subgroup, of the relatively 
closed circle, in dominion over its members, and the exposed 
position characteristic of such a prominent and privileged circle, 
often brings it about that special jurisdictions are more rigorous 
than the law of the larger association that permits the exemption 
of the subgroup. The Danish guilds, of which I have already 
spoken, decreed that, if a guild member broke a purchasing 

Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 279 

contract concluded with a guild brother, he, as the seller, had to 
pay a fine to the buyer that was twice the fine he would have had 
to pay to the king’s officer if the buyer had not been a guild 
brother, and to all guild brothers a fine that was twice the fine 
to the city. The structure of the larger group permits it to give 
the individual more freedom than the smaller group can allow 
because the existence of the smaller circle depends more im- 
mediately upon the adequate behavior of every single member. 
Moreover, the small circle must demonstrate again and again, 
through the rigor of its jurisdiction, that it firmly and worthily 
exercises dominion over its members with which it has been 
entrusted, and that it gives the state power no occasion for any 
corrective interference. But this dominion over its members, 
in which consists the very freedom of the partial group, can 
become worse than legal harshness. To be sure, up to the six- 
teenth century, the relatively great autonomy of the German 
cities greatly promoted their development. But later, it produced 
an oligarchical government by classes and cousins which deeply 
oppressed all who did not participate in it. Only the developing 
state powers, in a battle lasting for almost two hundred years, 
eventually managed to halt this tyrannical exploitation of city 
freedom, and to^guarantee, once more, the freedom of the indi- 
vidual in the face of it. Although, in principle, self-administra- 
tion is a blessing, there is nevertheless the danger of local parlia- 
ments being dominated by egoistic class interests. It is this almost 
pathological exaggeration into which the correlation between 
the attainment of freedom and its complement and content (as 
it were), the attainment of domination, are transformed. 

The type-process discussed here, then, is the development of 
the group’s liberation — in which many participate in the same 
way and which entails no subordination of others — into the 
striving after superordination or the attainment of it. This type 
is realized in a direction quite different from those discussed thus 
far, that is, in the differentiation which usually occurs in low 
strata that rise to freer or generally better life conditions. The 
result of the process is very often this: certain elements of the 
group, which ascends as a whole, actually rise but thereby be- 
come part of the previously superordinate stratum, while the 
remainder stays subordinate. Naturally, this is most likely to 

280 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

occur where a distinction between superordinates and subordi- 
nates already exists within the upward-striving layers. In this 
case, after the rebellion against the generally superior stratum 
is ended, the difference among the rebels reappears. During the 
upward movement, this difference was relegated to the back- 
ground; but now, with the uprising ended, those who previously 
had a higher position become assimilated to the highest stratum, 
while their erstwhile fellows-in-arms come to be pushed down 
all the more definitely. 

In part, the 1830 revolution of English workers followed 
this type. In order to gain the right of parliamentary vote, the 
workers formed an alliance with the Reform party and the 
middle classes. The result was the enactment of a law which gave 
all classes the right to vote — except the workers. The class strug- 
gle in Rome, in approximately the fourth century B.C., took 
its course according to the same formula. The wealthy Plebeians 
who, in the interest of their class, desired connubiality and a 
democratic process of occupying office, joined the middle and 
lower classes. The success of the total movement was that those 
points of the program which predominantly concerned full 
citizens were achieved, whereas reforms designed to help the 
middle class and the small peasants soon came to nothing. The 
Bohemian revolution of 1848, in which the peasants abolished 
the last remnants of feudalism, developed in the same way. Once 
feudalism was eliminated, the differences in the positions among 
the peasants came again to the fore, while before and during 
the revolution, they had receded under the impact of the com- 
mon subordination. The lower classes of the rural population 
demanded the partition of the community lands. This at once 
roused all the conservative instincts of the more well-to-do 
peasants. They fought the claims of the rural proletariat, al- 
though it was in alliance with them that they had just won a 
victory over the masters, who had fought their claims in the same 
way. It is very typical of the stronger element, which may, as a 
matter of fact, have achieved most of the victory, to wish to har- 
vest its fruits alone: the relatively preponderant share in the 
success grows into the claim upon the absolutely preponderant 
share in the gain. 

For the realization of this scheme, it is of great sociological 

Superordination in Lieu of Freedom 281 

help (as has been emphasized) that there already exist a broad 
class stratification, and that the more vigorous elements in the 
rising stratum join the higher layer which they previously fought. 
The originally relative difference between the better and worse 
situated elements of that class thereby becomes absolute, so to 
speak: for the privileged positions, the quantity of advantages 
gained reaches the point where this quantity changes into a new, 
advantageous quality. A procedure occasionally used in Spanish 
America shows a formal similarity. It was applied to the particu- 
larly gifted member of the colored population, who either in- 
augurated or threatened a freer and better position for his race 
in general. Such an individual was given a patent “that he should 
be considered white.” By being assimilated into the ruling class, 
his superiority over his fellows was replaced by equality with 
the upper layer, an equality which he might otherwise have 
gained for his whole race, and thus only, for himself. It is out of 
a feeling for this sociological type that, for instance, in Austria, 
some politicians, friendly toward labor, raised objections to 
labor committees which, after all, were designed to attenuate 
the oppression of the workers. The fear was that these committees 
might develop into a workers’ aristocracy; that, because of their 
privileged position which approached that of the entrepreneur, 
the entrepreneur might more easily assimilate them to his own 
interests; and that in this fashion, by this seeming progress, the 
remaining workers were actually more exposed than before. In 
the same way, generally, the chance of the best workers to rise 
into the propertied class seems to document the progress of the 
labor class as a whole. But this is only superficial; in reality, the 
rise is by no means favorable to the workers, because it deprives 
them of their best and leading elements. The absolute rise of 
certain members is, at the same time, their relative rise over 
their class, and thus their separation from it — a regular bleeding, 
depriving the class of its best blood. For this reason, if a 
mass rebels against an authority, the authority gains an im- 
mediate advantage if it succeeds in causing the mass to choose 
representatives who are to lead the negotiations. At least, the 
overwhelming, smashing onslaught of the mass, as such, is broken 
in this fashion; for the moment, the mass is checked by its own 
leaders in a way in which the authority itself can no longer 

282 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

succeed. The mass leaders exert the formal function of the 
authority, and thus prepare for the re-entrance of the authority 
into its dominating position. 

§ 3. The Sociological Error of Socialism and Anarchism 

All these phenomena lead into the most divergent directions, 
but they have the same sociological core: the fact, namely, that 
the quest for freedom and the attainment of freedom — in the 
various, negative and positive senses of this word — at the same 
time has, as its correlate or consequence, the quest for domina- 
tion and the attainment of domination. Both socialism and 
anarchism deny the necessary character of this connection. In 
the discussion here presented, the dynamic equilibrium of the 
individuals — which may be designated as social freedom — ap- 
peared as a mere point of transition (real or only ideal), beyond 
which the balance sank once more on one side. By contrast, 
socialism and anarchism declare that the stability of this dyna- 
mic equilibrium is possible once the general social organization 
is articulated, no longer as super-subordination, but as the co- 
ordination of all elements. 

The reasons usually advanced against this possibility are not 
at issue here. They may be summarized, however, as those of the 
terminus a quo and those of the terminus ad quern. No measure, 
it is argued, can eliminate natural differences among men, nor 
can any measure eliminate the expression of these differences 
through some upward-downward arrangement of commanding 
and obeying elements. The technique of civilized labor requires 
for its perfection a hierarchical structure of society, “one mind 
for a thousand hands,” a system of leaders and executors. The 
constitution of individuals and the claims of objective achieve- 
ment, as well as the workers and the realization of their aims — 
all coincide in the necessity of domination and subordination. 
It is urged by causality and teleology alike; and it is this which 
is the most definite and decisive justification of its indispens- 

Historical development, however, shows sporadic beginnings 
of a social form whose fundamental perfection could reconcile 
the continuation of super-subordination with the values of free- 

Super-Subordination without Degradation 288 

dom. It is on behalf of this form that socialism and anarchism 
fight for the abolition of super-subordination. After all, the 
motivation of the endeavor lies exclusively in the feeling-states 
of individuals, in the consciousness of degradation and oppres- 
sion, in the descent of the whole ego to the lowness of the social 
stratum, and, on the other hand, in the personal haughtiness 
into which self-feelings are transformed by externally leading 
positions. If some kind of social organization could avoid these 
psychological consequences of social inequality, social inequality 
could continue to exist without difficulties. Very often, one 
overlooks the purely technical character of socialism, the fact 
that it is a means for bringing about certain subjective reactions, 
that its ultimate source lies in men and in their life-feelings 
which are to be released by it. To be sure, the means — in accord 
with our psychological constitution — often becomes the end. 
The rational organization of society and the elimination of 
command and subjection appear as values not questioned be- 
yond themselves, values claiming realization irrespective of those 
personal, eudaemonistic results. And yet, in these lies that real 
psychological power which socialism has at its disposal to inject 
into the movement of history. As a mere means, however, social- 
ism succumbs tg the fate of every means, namely, of never being, 
in principle, the only one. Since different causes may have the 
same effect, it is never impossible that the same purpose may be 
reached by different means. Insofar as socialism is considered 
an institution depending on the will of people, it is only the first 
proposal for eliminating those eudaemonistic imperfections 
which derive from historical inequality. For this reason, it is 
so closely associated with the need for abolishing these inequali- 
ties that it appears synonymous with it. 

§ 4 . Super-Subordination without Degradation 

But if it were possible to dissolve the association between 
super-subordination and the feeling of personal devaluation 
and oppression, there is no logical reason why the all-decisive 
feeling of dignity and of a life which is its own master, should 
stand and fall only with socialism. Maybe this aim will be 
achieved if the individual feeling of life grows more psycho- 

284 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

logically independent of external activity in general and, in 
particular, of the position which the individual occupies within 
the sphere of this external activity. It could be imagined that, 
in the course of civilization, work in behalf of production be- 
comes more and more a mere technique, more and more losing 
its consequences for the personality and its intimate concerns. 
As a matter of fact, we do find as the sociological type which 
underlies various developments, an approximation to this sepa- 
ration of personality and work. While originally the two were 
fused, division of labor and production for the market, that is, 
for completely unknown and indifferent consumers, have later 
permitted the personality increasingly to withdraw from work 
and to become based upon itself. No matter how unconditional 
the expected obedience may be, at this later stage it at least no 
longer penetrates into the layers that are decisive for life-feeling 
and personality-value. Obedience is merely a technical necessity, 
a form of organization which remains in the separate sphere of 
external matters, in the same way as manual labor itself. 

This differentiation of objective and subjective life-elements, 
whereby subordination is preserved as a technical-organizational 
value which has no personally and internally depressing and 
degrading consequences, is, of course, no panacea for all the 
difficulties and sufferings that are everywhere produced by dom- 
ination and obedience. In the present context, the differentia- 
tion is merely the principal expression of a tendency which is 
only partially effective and which in actuality never yields an 
undistorted and conclusive result. Voluntary military service, 
however, is one of its purest examples in our time. The intel- 
lectually and socially highest person may subordinate himself 
to a non-commissioned officer and actually tolerate a treatment 
which, if it really concerned his ego and feeling of honor, would 
move him to the most desperate reactions. But he is aware that 
he must bow before an objective technique, not as an individual 
personality, but only as an impersonal link requiring such dis- 
cipline. This awareness, at least in many cases, prevents a feeling 
of degradation and oppression from arising. In the field of eco- 
nomics, it is particularly the transition from job work to machine 
work and from compensation in kind to compensation in wage 
which promote this objectification of super-subordination — as 

Super-Subordination without Degradation 285 

compared with the situation of the journeyman where the super- 
vision and domination of the master extend to all aspects of the 
journeyman's life, quite beyond the prerogative which accrues 
to the master from the journeyman's role as a worker. 

The same goal of development might be served by a further 
important type of sociological formation. It will be recalled 
that Proudhon wished to eliminate super-subordination by dis- 
solving all dominating structures which, as the vehicles of social 
forces, have become differentiated out of individual interaction, 
and by once more founding all order and cohesion upon the 
direct interaction of free, coordinate individuals. But this co- 
ordination can perhaps be reached even if superordination and 
subordination continue to exist — provided they are reciprocal. 
We would then have an ideal organization, in which A is super- 
ordinate to B in one respect or at one time, but in which, in 
another respect or at another time, B is superordinate to A. 
This arrangement would preserve the organizational value of 
super-subordination, while removing its oppressiveness, one- 
sidedness, and injustice. As a matter of fact, there are a great 
many phenomena of social life in which this form-type is rea- 
lized, even though only in an embryonic, mutilated, and covert 
way. A small-sc!^le example might be the production association 
of workers for an enterprise for which they elect a master and 
foreman. While they are subordinate to him in regard to the 
technique of the enterprise, they yet are his superordinates with 
respect to its general direction and results. All groups in which 
the leader changes either through frequent elections or accord- 
ing to a rule of succession — down to the presidents of social 
clubs — transform the synchronous combination of superordina- 
tion and subordination into their temporal alternation. In doing 
so, they gain the technical advantages of super-subordination 
while avoiding its personal disadvantages. All outspoken democ- 
racies try to attain this by means of brief office terms or by the 
prohibition of re-election, or both. In this fashion, the ideal of 
everybody having his turn is realized as far as possible. Simul- 
taneous superordination and subordination is one of the most 
powerful forms of interaction. In its correct distribution over 
numerous fields, it can constitute a very strong bond between 
individuals, merely by the close interaction entailed by it. 

286 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

§ 5 . Coordination and Reciprocal Super-Subordination 

In this, Stimer sees the essence of constitutionalism: ‘‘The 
ministers,'' he says, “reign over their lord, the prince; the depu- 
ties reign over theirs, the people/' But it is in an even deeper 
sense that parliamentarism contains this form of correspondence. 
Modem jurisprudence divides all legal conditions into those of 
coordination and those of super-subordination. But it is likely 
that the former also are often of the super-subordinate type, 
which is practiced, however, reciprocally. The coordination of 
two citizens may consist in the fact that neither of them has a 
prerogative over the other. But inasmuch as each of them elects 
a representative, and inasmuch as this representative co-deter- 
mines the laws which are also obligatory for the other, a 
relationship of reciprocal superordination and subordination 
originates; more precisely, it does so as the expression of co- 
ordination. This general form is of decisive significance for 
constitutional questions. Already Aristotle recognized this when 
he distinguished legal from factual participation in state power. 
The mere fact that a citizen (in contrast to a non-citizen) is a 
bearer of state power, is no guarantee that, within the organiza- 
tion of citizens he ever has any function other than simple obedi- 
ence. The individual who in respect to the military privileges 
of the citizen is among the oligoi [the few who rule], the “haves," 
may, in respect to his share in the exercise of state power, belong 
among those who “have" less, among the mere demos^ for the 
reason, perhaps, that only people of high esteem can be elected 
to office, while those of lower esteem are entitled only to partici- 
pation in the ekklesia [popular assembly]. A state may be an 
oligarchy in regard to the first relationship, military privilege; 
but in regard to the second, state power, it may under certain 
circumstances be a democracy. Here the official is subject to the 
general state power whose bearers, in terms of practical organiza- 
tion, are in turn subject to him, the official. 

This relationship has been expressed, both in a more refined 
and more general manner, by contrasting the people, as object 
of imperium, with the individual, as a link coordinate with all 
other individuals: in the first respect, the individual is an object 

Coordination and Reciprocal Super-Subordination 287 

of duty; in the second, a legal subject. This differentiation and 
concomitant consistency of group life, which is effected by the 
reciprocity of superordination and subordination, are further 
increased if certain contents are taken into consideration to 
which this form of group life applies. With full awareness of 
the paradox involved, the strength of democracy has been 
pointed out as being exemplified by the fact that everybody is 
a servant in matters in which he has the greatest specialized 
knowledge, but a master in things of general knowledge. That 
is, in professional matters, he must obey the wishes of the con- 
sumer or the regulations of the entrepreneur or of whoever 
else gives him orders. By contrast, like all others, he is master as 
regards the general, or political, interests of the collectivity, of 
which he has no special understanding but only that which he 
shares with the rest of the society. Where the ruler, it has fur- 
ther been argued, is also the expert, the absolute suppression of 
the lower classes is quite inevitable. If, in a democracy, the 
numerical majority also possessed the concentration of knowl- 
edge and power, they would exert a tyranny no less harmful than 
that of an autocracy. In order to make sure that it does not 
come to such a split between above and below but that, instead, 
the unity of the whole is preserved, that peculiar combination 
is necessary by which the highest power is entrusted to those 
who, in respect to expert knowledge, are mere subalterns. 

This interlacing of alternating superordinations and sub- 
ordinations among the same powers also sustained the unity of 
the idea of the state into which the parliamentary and ecclesiastic 
constitutions fused after the Glorious Revolution in England. 
The clergy had a deep antipathy for the parliamentary regime 
and, above all, for the prerogative which it claimed even in 
respect to the clergy. In its essential points, the truce came about 
by the church retaining special juridicial power over marriages 
and testaments, as well as sanctions concerning Catholics and 
persons not attending church. In exchange, it gave up its doc- 
trine of unchangeable “obedience” and recognized that the 
divine world order had room for a parliamentary world order, 
to whose special regulations even the clergy was subjected. Yet, 
the church dominated the parliament because, in order to enter 
parliament, one had to take oaths which only members of the 

288 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

state church could take without difficulty, dissenters only by 
some devious route, and members of other faiths not at all. The 
ruling clerical and secular class was integrated in such a way 
that, in the Upper House, the archbishops retained their seats 
above the dukes; the bishops theirs above the lords; while all 
parsons subordinated themselves to the patronage of the secular 
ruling class. To compensate for this, the local cleric again 
received the direction of the local community meeting. This 
was the form of interaction which power factors, otherwise con- 
tradictory, could attain, so that the state church of the eighteenth 
century and a consistent organization of English life in general 
came about. 

The relationship of marriage, too, owes its inner and outer 
firmness and unity, at least in part, to the fact that it comprises 
a large number of interest spheres in some of which the one part, 
and in others the other part, is superordinate. In this fashion, 
there results an interpenetration, a consistency and, at the same 
time, vitality of the relation which can hardly be atained in other 
sociological forms. Probably, what is called the “equal rights" 
of man and wife in marriage — as a fact or as a pious wish — is 
actually to a large extent such an alternating superordination 
and subordination. At least, this alternation would result in a 
more organic relationship than would mechanical equality in the 
literal sense of the term, especially if one recalls the thousand 
subtle relations of daily life which cannot be cast in the form 
of principles. The alternation also would make sure that mo- 
mentary superordination does not appear as brute command. 
This form of relationship, finally, constituted one of the closest 
bonds in Cromwell’s army. The same soldier who, in military 
matters, blindly obeyed his superior, in the hour of prayer 
often made himself into his moral preacher. A corporal could 
preside over the worship in which his captain participated in the 
same way as all privates. The army which unconditionally fol- 
lowed its leader once a political goal was accepted, beforehand 
made political decisions to which the leaders themselves had to 
bow. As long as it lasted, the Puritan army derived an extraordi- 
nary firmness from this reciprocity of superordination and sub- 

The favorable result of this societal form depends on the 

Coordination and Reciprocal Super-Subordination 289 

fact that the sphere within which one* social element is super- 
ordinate is very precisely and clearly separated from those 
spheres in which the other element is superordinate. As soon as 
this is not the case, constant conflicts over competencies develop; 
and the result is not the strengthening, but the weakening of 
the group. When a person, who in general is subordinate, oc- 
casionally attains superordination in the field of his normal 
subordination, the solidity of the group suffers greatly. It does 
so, in part because of the rebellious character which usually 
characterizes such a situation, in part because of the incapability 
for superordination in a field in which the person ordinarily is 
subordinate. While Spain was a world power, periodic rebel- 
lions broke out in the Spanish army, for instance, in the Nether- 
lands. No matter how terrible the discipline by which the army 
was held together, nevertheless, it occasionally showed an insup- 
pressible democratic force. The soldiers rebelled against the 
officers in certain, almost calculable intervals, demoting them 
and choosing their own. But these new officers were under the 
control of the soldiers, and could do nothing which was not 
approved of by all subordinates. The harm of such medley of 
superordination and subordination in the same field needs no 

In an indirect form, this harm also lies in the short office 
term of elected officials in many democracies. Certainly, by this 
method, as large as possible a number of citizens at one time or 
another comes into leading positions; but, on the other hand, 
long-range plans, continuous actions, consistently applied meas- 
ures, and technical perfection, are often enough made impos- 
sible. In the ancient republics, this quick alternation was not 
yet harmful to the extent it is today, inasmuch as their adminis- 
trations were simple and transparent, and most citizens had the 
knowledge and training necessary for office. The sociological 
form of the occurrences in the Spanish army — although the con- 
tent was very different — show the same great evils which, at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century, appeared in the American 
Episcopal Church. The congregations were seized by a feverish 
passion to exercise control over their ministers — ^who were ap- 
pointed, precisely, for the moral and ecclesiastical control of 
their congregations. In consequence of this refractoriness on the 

290 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

part of the congregations, clerics in Virginia were for a long 
time appointed for one year only. 

In a slightly modified manner, which is yet formally the same 
in all essentials, this sociological process occurs in bureaucratic 
hierarchies, where the superior is technically dependent upon 
the subaltern. The higher official often lacks the knowledge of 
technical details or of the actual objective situation. The lower 
official usually moves in the same circle of tasks during all his 
life, and thus gains a specialized knowledge of his narrow field 
that a person who rapidly advances through various stages does 
not possess. Yet, the decisions of such a person cannot be exe- 
cuted without that knowledge of detail. Thus, under the Roman 
Empire, the knights’ and senators’ right to state service did not 
entail any theoretical training for it; the acquisition of the re- 
quired knowledge was simply left to practice. But already in the 
last stages of the Republic, this procedure had resulted in the 
higher officials’ dependence upon their subalterns who man- 
aged to produce a certain business routine since they did not 
constantly change. In Russia, this is a general characteristic, 
which is especially promoted by the particular manner in which 
offices are occupied there. Advancement is according to rank 
classes, but not only within the same department; rather, the 
official who has reached a certain class is often transferred — on 
his own or his superior’s wish — into a very different depart- 
ment, but with the same rank. Thus, at least until recently, it 
was by no means rare for a graduated student to become an offi- 
cer with no more training than six months of service at the front, 
and for an officer, by passing to the civil rank corresponding 
to his military position, to receive some office in the civil state 
service that he preferred. The way in which either of them 
came to terms with his new situation, for which his training had 
not prepared him, was his own affair. It is inevitable that such 
a situation often results in the technical ignorance of the higher 
official with respect to his position; and it is just as inevitable 
that this ignorance makes him depend upon his inferior with 
his expert knowledge. The reciprocity of superordination and 
subordination thus often lets the actual leader appear as the 
subordinate, and the actual mere-executor as the superordinate. 
As a consequence, this reciprocity damages the solidity of the 

Super-Subordination as a Form of Social Organization 291 

organization as much as an expediently distributed alternation 
of superordination and subordination can strengthen it. 

§ 6. Super-Subordination as a Form of Social Organization 
and as an Expression of Individual Differences; 

Person vs. Position 

Beyond these special formations, the fact of domination 
poses the following quite general sociological problem. Super- 
ordination and subordination constitute, on the one hand, a 
form of the objective organization of society. On the other hand, 
they are the expression of differences in personal qualities among 
men. How do these two characteristics compare wdth one an- 
other, and how is the form of sociation influenced by the differ- 
ences in this relationship? 

In the beginning of societal development, the superordina- 
tion of one personality over others must have been the adequate 
expression and consequence of personal superiority. There is no 
reason why, at a social stage with no fixed organization that 
would a priori allocate his place to the individual, anybody 
should subordinate himself to another, unless force, piety, bodily 
or spiritual or volitional superiority, suggestion — in brief, the 
relation of his personal being to that of the other — determined 
him to do so. Since the beginning of societal formation is histori- 
cally inaccessible to us, we must, on methodological principles, 
make the simplest assumption, namely, that of approximate 
equilibrium. We thus proceed as we do in the case of cosmologi- 
cal deductions. Since the beginning stage of the world process 
is unknown, it was necessary to try the deduction of the origin 
and progress of manifold and differentiated phenomena from 
what was as simple as possible — the homogeneity and equili- 
brium of the world elements. There is, of course, no doubt that, 
if these assumptions are made in an absolute sense, no world 
pracess could ever have begun, since there was no cause for 
movement and specialization. We must, therefore, posit at the 
initial stage some differential behavior of elements, however 
minimal, in order to make subsequent differentiations under- 
standable on its basis. In a similar way, we are forced, in the 
development of social variation, to start with a fictitious simplest 

292 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

stage; and the minimum of variation, which is needed as the 
germ of all later differentiations, will probably have to be placed 
into the purely personal differences among individual disposi- 
tions. Among men, differences in reciprocal positions that are 
directed toward the outside, will initially, therefore, have to be 
derived from such qualitative individualizations. 

Thus, in primitive times, the prince is required or assumed 
to have perfections which are extraordinary in their extent or 
combination. The Greek king of the heroic period had to be, not 
only brave, wise, and eloquent, but also outstanding as an ath- 
lete and, if possible, an excellent carpenter, shipbuilder, and 
husbandman as well. It has been noted that the position of King 
David rested largely upon the fact that he was, at the same time, 
a singer and warrior, a layman and prophet, and that he had 
the capabilities needed for a fusion of secular state power with 
spiritual theocracy. This origin of superordination and subor- 
dination, of course, still operates constantly in society and con- 
tinuously creates new situations. But out of it have developed, 
and are developing, fixed organizations of superordination and 
subordination. Individuals are either born into them or attain 
given positions in them on the basis of qualities quite different 
from those which originally founded the super-subordination 
in question. 

This transition from the subjectivistic relationship of dom- 
ination to an objective formation and fixation, is effected by the 
purely quantitative expansion of the sphere of domination. The 
connection between the increased quantity of elements and the 
objectivity of the norms which are valid for them, can be ob- 
served everywhere. Two, actually contradictory motives are sig- 
nificant in it. The increase of elements entails an increase in the 
qualitative characteristics existing among them. This greatly 
increases the improbability that any one element with a strong 
subjective individuality has identical or even generally satis- 
factory relations to all others. To the extent that there is an 
increase in the differences within the group over which domina- 
tion or norm extend, the ruler or the norm must shed all indi- 
vidual character and adopt, instead, a general character, above 
subjective fluctuations. 

On the other hand, this same expansion of the group leads 

Super-Subordination as a Form of Social Organization 293 

to the division of labor and differentiation among its leading 
elements. Unlike the Greek king, the ruler of a large group can 
no longer be the standard and leader of all their essential inter- 
ests. What is required, rather, are manifold specialization and 
specialized division of the regime. But the division of labor is 
everywhere correlated with the objectification of actions and 
conditions. It moves the labor of the individual into a context 
which lies outside his proper sphere: the personality, as a whole 
and as something intimate, is placed beyond any one-sided 
activity. The results of activity, now circumscribed in purely 
objective terms, form a unit along with those of other personali- 
ties. It is probable that the totality of such causal chains has trans- 
formed the relation of domination, which originated from case 
to case and from person to person, into an objective form in 
which not the person, but the position, so to speak, is the super- 
ordinate element. The a priori elements of the relationship are 
no longer the individuals with their characteristics, out of which 
the social relation develops, but, rather, these relations them- 
selves, as objective forms, as “positions,'' empty spaces and con- 
tours (as it were) which must merely be “filled" by individuals. 
The firmer and the more technically articulated the organiza- 
tion of the group, the more objectively and formally do the 
patterns of superordination and subordination present them- 
selves. Individuals suited for the positions are sought only “after- 
wards," or else the positions are filled by the mere accidents of 
birth and other contingencies. 

This by no means applies to hierarchies of governmental 
positions alone. Money economy creates a very similar societal 
formation in the spheres which are dominated by it. The pos- 
session or the lack of a particular sum of money entails a certain 
social position, an almost entire independence upon the personal 
qualities of the individual occupant. Money has carried to its 
extreme the separation emphasized a moment ago, between man 
as a personality and man as the instrument of a special perform- 
ance or significance. Everyone who can conquer or somehow 
acquire the possession of money, thereby attains a power and a 
position which appear and disappear with the holding of this 
possession, but not with the personality and its characteristics. 
Men pass through positions associated with the possession of 

294 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

certain amounts of money in the way in which purely accidental 
“fillings’" pass through rigid, solid forms. 

It is obvious, however, that modern society does not every- 
where exhibit this discrepancy between position and personality. 
In fact, the separation of the position with its objective content 
from the personality itself, frequently results in a certain elas- 
ticity in the allocation of persons, and thus in a new, often more 
rational basis for adequate proportioning. This is in addition to 
the immensely increased possibilities that liberal orders provide, 
in general, for the procurement of positions to which available 
qualifications are adequate. Nor is this altered by the fact that 
the relevant qualifications are often so specialized that the per- 
sonality, in terms of its over-all value, nevertheless does not de- 
serve the superordination attained through them. The discrep- 
ancy involved here occasionally reaches its maximum in certain 
intermediate structures, like estates and guilds. It has correctly 
been emphasized that the system of big industry gives the excep- 
tionally gifted man more opportunity to excel than did any- 
thing prior to this system. The numerical proportion of foreman 
and supervisor to workers, the argument runs, is nowadays 
smaller than the proportion of petty masters to journeymen two 
hundred years ago; but the special talent now has a much greater 
chance of rising to a higher position. Here, the important point 
is only the peculiar chance of the discrepancy between the per- 
sonal quality and its position in terms of ruling or being ruled. 
This chance has been brought about by the objectification of 
positions and by their differentiation from purely personal, in- 
dividual factors. 

However much socialism abhors this blindly contingent 
relationship between the objective scale of positions and the 
qualifications of persons, its organizational proposals neverthe- 
less amount to the same sociological form. For, socialism desires 
a constitution and administration which are absolutely central- 
ized and hence, by necessity, rigorously articulated and hier- 
archical; but, at the same time, it presupposes that all individuals 
are, a priori, equally capable of occupying any position whatever 
in this hierarchy. But, in this fashion, that circumstance of con- 
temporary conditions which appeared senseless is, at least in one 
respect, elevated into a principle. For, the mere fact that in an 

Aristocracy vs. Equality 295 

ideally pure democracy those who are guided choose their guide, 
offers no guarantee against the accidental character of the rela- 
tion between person and position. It does not for two reasons. 
The first is that, in order to choose the best expert, one himself 
must be an expert. The other reason is that, in all very large 
groups, the principle of choice from below produces entirely 
accidental results. An exception to this are pure party elections 
— where, however, the very factor whose meaningful or acci- 
dental nature is in question here, is eliminated. For, the party 
election as such is a vote for a person, not because of certain 
personal qualities, but because this person is the anonymous 
representative (to put it in extreme terms) of a certain objective 

The form of leader creation which socialism ought to espouse, 
if it seeks to be consistent, is the drawing of positions by lot. 
The lot expresses the ideal claim of everybody much more ade- 
quately than does the circulation of positions, which, besides, 
cannot be perfectly carried out under large-scale conditions. 
Yet, this by no means makes the lot itself democratic. In the first 
place, the lot may also be resorted to under a ruling aristocracy: 
as a purely formal principle, it has no connection with the con- 
trast between democracy and aristocracy. In the second place, 
and above all, democracy implies the actual cooperation of all, 
whereas the drawing of leading positions by lot transforms actual 
cooperation into ideal cooperation, into the merely potential 
right of everybody to attain a leading position. The lottery prin- 
ciple completely severs the mediation between the individual 
and his position, the mediation which is represented by the 
individual’s subjective qualification. With the lottery principle, 
super-subordination as a formal, organizational requirement, 
wholly overpowers personal qualities — from which, neverthe- 
less, this requirement took its origins. 

§ 7. Aristocracy vs. Equality 

The problem of the relation between personal and mere 
positional superiority branches out into two important sociologi- 
cal forms. In view of the actual differences in the qualities of 
men — differences eliminable only in a utopia — certainly, “do- 

296 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

minion by the best** is that constitution which most precisely 
and suitably expresses the inner and ideal relation among men 
in an external relation. This, perhaps, is the deepest reason why 
artists are so often aristocratically inclined. For, the attitude of 
the artist is based upon the assumption that the inner signifi- 
cance of things adequately reveals itself in their appearance, if 
only this appearance is seen correctly and completely. The sepa- 
ration of the world from its value, of appearance from its signifi- 
cance, is the anti-artistic disposition. This is so in spite of the 
fact that the artist must, of course, transform the immediately 
given so that it yields its true, super-contingent form — which, 
however, is at the same time the text of its spiritual or meta- 
physical meaning. Thus, the psychological and historical con- 
nection between the aristocratic and the artistic conceptions of 
life may, at least in part, be based on the fact that only an 
aristocratic order equips the inner value relations among men 
with a visible form, with their aesthetic symbol, so to speak. 

But an aristocracy in this pure sense, as government by the 
best, such as Plato visualized, cannot be realized empirically. 
One reason is that, thus far, no procedure has been found by 
which “the best** could with certainty be recognized and given 
their positions. Neither the a priori method of breeding a ruling 
caste, nor the a posteriori method of natural selection in the free 
struggle for the favored position, nor the (as it were) intermedi- 
ate method of electing persons, from below or from above, has 
proved adequate. But aside from these presuppositional diffi- 
culties, there are others. Men rarely are satisfied with the superi- 
ority of even the best among them, because they do not wish 
any superiority at all or, at least, none in which they cannot 
themselves participate. Furthermore, the possession of power, 
even of power which was originally acquired in a legitimate 
fashion, usually demoralizes, not always (to be sure) the indi- 
vidual, but almost always organizations and classes. In view of 
all these difficulties, it becomes understandable that Aristotle 
should have held the following opinion. From an abstract stand- 
point, he said, it befits the individual or family which in aret^ 
[virtue] excels all others to have absolute dominion over them. 
But on the basis of practical requirements, it is necessary to 
recommend a mixture of this domination with that of the mass; 

Aristocracy vs. Equality 297 

the numerical preponderance of the mass must be combined 
with the qualitative preponderance of the particular individual 
or family. 

But the above-mentioned difficulties of the “dominion by 
the best’' may lead, rather than to these mediating notions, to 
the resigned proposition that general equality should be con- 
sidered as the practical regulation. In this case, the argument is 
that in comparison with the disadvantages of aristocracy — which, 
logically, alone is justified — general equality represents the 
lesser evil. Since it is definitely impossible to express, certainly 
and permanently, subjective differences in objective relation- 
ships of domination, subjective differences should altogether be 
eliminated from the characteristics of the social structure, which 
ought to be regulated as if these differences did not exist. 

But since, as a rule, the question of greater or lesser evil can 
be decided only by personal valuation, the same pessimistic 
mood may also lead to the exactly opposite conviction. One can 
argue that, in large as in small groups, there must be some gov- 
ernment; and that, therefore, it is better that unsuited persons 
govern than that nobody does. Moreover, one can argue that 
the societal group must adopt the form of super-subordination, 
from inner and objective necessity, so that it would be merely 
a desirable accident if the place which is pre formed by objec- 
tive necessity were indeed filled by the subjectively adequate 

This formal consideration derives from quite primitive ex- 
periences and necessities. The most obvious is that the form of 
domination itself means or creates a social tie. More awkward 
periods, which did not have a variety of interactional forms at 
their disposal, often had no other means for effecting formal 
membership in the collectivity than that of subordinating the 
individuals, who were not immediately associated, to those who 
were members a priori. After the earliest constitution, of com- 
plete personal and property equality in the community, had 
ceased to exist in Germany, the landless man lacked all rights 
to any positive freedom. Therefore, if he did not wish to remain 
altogether without connection with the community, he had to 
join some lord, so that he could participate in this indirect 
fashion, as a denizen, in the public organizations. The com- 

298 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

munity was interested in his doing this, for it could not tolerate 
any unattached individual in its territory. For this reason, Anglo- 
Saxon law made it expressly the duty of the landless person to 
subject himself to a lord [sich *'verherren"]. In medieval Eng- 
land, too, the interest of the community required the stranger 
to subordinate himself to a patron. One belonged to the group 
if one owned a piece of its territory; those who lacked land and 
yet wished to belong were forced personally to belong to some- 
body who, in turn, was connected with the group in the original 

The general importance of leading personalities, combined 
with the relative irrelevance of their personal qualifications, is 
found, in a formally similar manner, in several early elaborations 
of the voting principle. The elections, for instance, of the medi- 
eval English parliament seem to have been conducted with as- 
tonishing negligence and indifference. The only important point 
seems to have been that each district designated a member of 
parliament; it was much less important who this member was. 
This indifference also applied to the qualification of the voters 
and, during the medieval period, was often striking. Whoever 
happened to be present voted; it seems that often no value was 
placed upon the legitimation of the voters, nor upon any particu- 
lar number of them. This carelessness in regard to the electorate 
was only the expression, evidently, of the carelessness in regard 
to the qualitative and personal results of the election. 

§ 8 . Coercion 

Finally, in the same sense, there operates quite generally 
the conviction that coercion is necessary for social organization, 
the idea is that human nature simply needs coercion lest human 
actions become completely purposeless and formless. For the 
general character of this postulate, it is irrelevant whether sub- 
ordination be under a person and his arbitrariness, or under 
a law. There are, admittedly, certain extreme cases where the 
formal value of subordination no longer makes up for the sense- 
lessness of its content; but, aside from these, it is of only second- 
ary interest whether the content of the law be a little better or 
a little worse — exactly, it will be remembered, as was the case 

Coercion 299 

concerning the quality of the ruling personality. Here one could 
refer to the advantages of hereditary despotism — a despotism 
which, obviously, is to a certain extent independent of the 
qualities of the person — particularly where it dominates the 
over-all political and cultural life of large territories, and has 
certain advantages over a free federation. 

These advantages are similar to the prerogative of marriage 
over free love. Nobody can deny that the coercion of law and 
custom holds innumerable marriages together which, from the 
moral standpoint, ought to break apart. In these instances, the 
persons concerned subordinate themselves to a law which simply 
does not fit their case. But in other instances, this same coer- 
cion — however hard, momentarily and subjectively, it may be 
felt to be — is an irreplaceable value, because it keeps together 
those who, from the moral standpoint, ought to stay together 
but, for some momentary ill-temper, irritation, or vacillation 
of feeling, would separate if they only could, and thus would 
impoverish or destroy their lives irreparably. The content of 
marriage laws may be good or bad, may be or may not be applic- 
able to a given case: the mere coercion of the law to stay together 
develops individual values of an eudaemonistic and ethical 
nature (not to#mention values of social expediency) which, ac- 
cording to the pessimistic, perhaps one-sided standpoint pre- 
supposed here, could never be realized in the absence of all 
coercion. The mere consciousness of everyone that he is bound 
to the other by coercion may, in some cases, make the common 
life utterly unbearable. But in other cases, this consciousness 
will bring about a tolerance, self-discipline, and thorough psy- 
chological training which nobody would feel inclined to undergo 
if separation were possible at all times. These traits are pro- 
duced, rather, only by the desire to make the unavoidable life 
in common at least as bearable as possible. 

Occasionally, the consciousness of being under coercion, of 
being subject to a superordinate authority, is revolting or op- 
pressive — ^whether the authority be an ideal or social law, an 
arbitrarily decreeing personality or an executor of higher norms. 
But, for the majority of men, coercion probably is an irreplace- 
able support and cohesion of the inner and outer life. In the 
inevitably symbolic language of all psychology: our soul seems 

300 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

to live in two layers, one of which is deeper, hard or impossible 
to move, carrying the real sense or substance of our life, while 
the other is composed of momentary impulses and isolated 
irritabilities. This second layer would be victorious over the 
first and even more often than it actually is; and, because of the 
onslaught and quick alternation of its elements, the second 
layer would give the first no opportunity to come to the surface, 
if the feeling of a coercion interfering from somewhere did not 
dam its torrent, break its vacillations and caprices, and thus, 
again and again, give room and supremacy to the persistent 

In comparison with this functional significance of coercion 
as such, its particular content is of only secondary importance. 
Senseless coercion may be replaced by sensible coercion, but 
even the latter has its significance, which is relevant here, only 
in that which it shares with the former. Moreover, not only 
the toleration of coercion, but also opposition to it — both to 
unjust and to justified coercion — has for the rhythm of our 
surface life this same function of inhibition and interruption: 
to make conscious and effective the deeper currents of the most 
intimate and substantial life, which cannot be inhibited by any 
external means. Insofar as coercion is associated with some form 
of domination, the association reveals that element in domina- 
tion which is, as it were, indifferent to the quality of the ruler 
and to any individual right to dominate, and which thus shows 
the deeper sense of the claim to authority as such. 

§ 9 . The Inevitably Disproportionate Distribution of 
Qualifications and Positions 

It is, in fact, impossible in principle that, in the scale of 
super-subordination, personal qualification and social position 
correspond to one another throughout and without remainder — 
no matter which organization might be proposed for attaining 
such a correspondence. The reason is that there are always more 
people qualified for superordinate positions than there are such 
positions. Among the ordinary workers in a factory, there cer- 
tainly are very many who could equally well be foremen or 
entrepreneurs; among common soldiers, many who are fully 

Distribution of Qualifications and I'ositions 3U1 

capable of being officers; among the millions of subjects of a 
prince, doubtless many who would be equally good or better 
princes. Rule “by the grace of God” gives expression to the fact 
that not any subjective quality, but a super-human criterion, 
decides who shall rule. 

Moreover, the fraction of those who have attained leading 
positions among those who are qualified for them, must not be 
assumed to be greater than it is, merely on the recognition of 
the fact that (surely) there also are a great many persons in 
superordinate positions who are not qualified for them. For, 
this sort of disproportion between person and position appears, 
for several reasons, more considerable than it actually is. In the 
first place, incompetence in a given position of control is espe- 
cially visible; it is obviously more difficult to conceal than very 
many other human inadequacies — particularly because so many 
other men, thoroughly qualified for this same position, stand 
aside as subordinates. Furthermore, this disproportion often 
results not from individual shortcomings at all, but from contra- 
dictory requirements of the office; nevertheless, the inevitable 
consequences of these requirements are easily ascribed to the 
office occupant as his subjective faults. The idea of modern “state 
government,” for instance, connotes an infallibility which is 
the expression of its (in principle) absolute objectivity. Measured 
by this ideal infallibility, it is natural that its actual executives 
should often appear inadequate. 

In reality, purely individual shortcomings of leading per- 
sonalities are relatively rare. If one considers the senseless and 
uncontrollable accidents through which men obtain their posi- 
tions in all fields, the fact that not a very much greater sum of 
incapabilities manifests itself in their occupancies would be an 
incomprehensible miracle, if one did not have to assume that 
the latent qualifications for the positions exist in very great 
diffusion. This very assumption underlies the phenomenon that, 
under republican constitutions, the candidate for office is some- 
times investigated only for negative traits; that is, it is merely 
asked whether he has, in some way, made himself unworthy of 
the office. Thus, in Athens, appointment was by lot, and the 
only questions examined were whether the candidate treated 
his parents well, paid his taxes, etc., in other words, whether 

S02 Degrees of Domination and Freedom 

there was anything against him — the assumption being that 
everybody was a priori worthy of the office. This is the deeper 
justification of the proverb: “If God gives somebody an office, 
he also gives him the mind necessary for it.” For, precisely, the 
“mind” required for the occupancy of higher positions exists 
in many men, but it proves, develops, reveals itself only once 
they occupy the position. 

This incommensurability between the quantity of qualifica- 
tions for superordination and the quantity of their possible 
applications, can perhaps be explained in terms of the difference 
between the character of man as a group member and as an 
individual. The group as such is low and in need of guidance. 
It develops qualities which all members have in common. But 
they are only those qualities which are securely inherited, that 
is, more primitive and undifferentiated traits or traits easily 
suggested — in short, “subordinate” qualities. Once a group of 
any size is formed, therefore, it is expedient that the whole mass 
organize itself in the form of subordination to a few. This, evi- 
dently, does not prevent any given individual member from 
having higher and finer qualities. But these are individual. They 
transcend in various respects what all have in common, and thus 
do not raise the low level of the qualities in which they coincide. 
From all this, it follows that the group as a whole needs a leader, 
and that, therefore, there can be many subordinates but only 
few superordinates — but that, on the other hand, every indi- 
vidual member of the group is more highly qualified than he 
is as a group element, that is, as a subordinate. 

All social formations thus involve this contradiction be- 
tween the just claim to a superordinate position and the tech- 
nical impossibility of satisfying this claim. The arrangement 
by estates and the contemporary order come to terms with this 
contradiction by building the classes one on top of the other, 
with an ever smaller number of members in the upward direc- 
tion, in the form of a pyramid, thereby limiting from the be- 
ginning the number of those “qualified” for leading positions. 
This selection is not based on the individuals available, but 
inversely, it prejudges these individuals. Out of a mass of equals, 
not everyone can be brought into the position he deserves. For 
this reason, the arrangements just mentioned may be considered 

Distribution of Qualifications and Positions 303 

as the attempt at training the individuals for predetermined 
positions, from the standpoint of these positions. 

But instead of the slowness with which heredity and educa- 
tion, that is commensurate with rank, may succeed in this train- 
ing, there also are acute procedures, so to speak. They serve, by 
means of authoritative or mystical edict, to equip the person- 
ality with the capability of leading and ruling, irrespective of 
his previous quality. For the tutelary state of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, the subject was incapable of any par- 
ticipation in public affairs; in political respects, he remained 
permanently in need of guidance. But the moment he occupied 
a state office, he at once attained the higher insights and the 
public spirit which enabled him to direct the collectivity — as 
if, by the sheer occupancy of office, there had emerged out of 
the immature person, through an inexplicable birth, not only 
the mature individual, but the leader equipped with all the 
prerequisites of intellect and character. This tension between 
everyone's a priori lack of qualification for a certain superiority 
and the absolute qualification which he acquires a posteriori 
through the interference of a higher authority, reaches its peak 
in Catholic clergy. Here, family tradition, or education from 
childhood on, j)lay no role. Even the personal quality of the 
candidate is unimportant in comparison to the spirit which 
exists in mystical objectivity and which is bestowed upon him 
through consecration to priesthood. The superior position is not 
given to him because he alone is naturally predestined for it — 
although this may, of course, be of some importance and does 
form the basis for a certain differentiation among those ad- 
mitted. Nor is it given to him on the greater chance of his being 
“called" rather than not. No, the consecration creates the special 
qualification for the position to which it calls the individual, 
because it transfers the spirit to him. The principle of God 
giving an office and the required competence along with it is 
here realized in the most radical fashion, in both of its two 
dimensions — unfitness prior to the occupancy, and subsequent 
fitness created by the “office" itself. 

Part Fjour 

The Secret and the 
Secret Society 

Chapter 1 

Knowledge, Truth, and 
Falsehood in Human Relations 


which people have to one another are based on their knowing 
something about one another. The merchant knows that his 
correspondent wants to buy at the lowest possible price, and to 
sell at the highest possible price. The teacher knows that he can 
tax the student with a certain kind and amount of learning 
material. Within each social stratum, an individual knows how 
much culture, approximately, he may expect of every other 
individual. Without such knowledge, evidently, these and many 
other kinds of interaction could not take place at all. One may 
say (with reservations which easily suggest themselves) that in 
all relations of a personally differentiated sort, intensity and 
nuance develop in the degree in which each party, by words 
and by mere existence, reveals itself to the other. How much 
error and mere prejudice may be contained in all this knowl- 
edge, is another question. Yet, just as our apprehension of ex- 
ternal nature, along with elusions and inadequacies, neverthe- 
less attains the truth required for the life and progress of our 
species, so everybody knows, by and large correctly, the other 
person with whom he has to deal, so that interaction and relation 
become possible. 

§ 1. Knowledge of One Another 

The first condition of having to deal with somebody at all 
is to know with whom one has to deal. The fact that people 
usually introduce themselves to one another whenever they 
engage in a conversation of any length or meet on the same 


308 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 

social level, may strike one as an empty form; yet it is an adequate 
symbol of the mutual knowledge presupposed by every relation- 
ship. We are very often not conscious of this because, for a 
large number of relations, we need to know only that quite 
typical tendencies and qualities are present on both sides. The 
necessary character of these tendencies is usually noted only 
when, on occasion, they are absent. It would be worth a special 
investigation to find out the kind and degree of reciprocal 
knowledge required by various relations among people; to find 
out how the general psychological assumptions, with which 
everybody approaches everybody else, are interwoven with the 
special experiences in regard to the particular individual with 
whom we interact; how, in many fields, reciprocal knowledge 
does not have to be equal on both sides or is not permitted to 
be; to discover how the development of existing relations is 
determined merely by the growing knowledge, on both sides 
or on one side, about the other; finally, on the other hand, how 
our objectively psychological picture of the other individual 
is influenced by real, practical and sentimental, relations. 

This last influence is by no means one of mere falsification. 
It is entirely legitimate that the theoretical conception we have 
of a particular individual should vary with the standpoint from 
which it is formed, a standpoint which is the result of the over- 
all relation between knower and known. One can never know 
another person absolutely, which would involve knowledge of 
every single thought and mood. Nevertheless, one forms some 
personal unity out of those of his fragments in which alone he 
is accessible to us. This unity, therefore, depends upon the 
portion of him which our standpoint permits us to see. But such 
differences by no means arise from differences in the quantity 
of knowledge alone. No psychological knowledge is a mere 
stereotype of its object but depends, as does the knowledge of 
external nature, upon the forms which the cognizing mind 
brings to it and in which it receives the given. But where the 
knowledge of individuals is at issue, these forms differ very much 
individually. They do not attain the scientific generality and 
super-subjective power of conviction which can be reached with 
respect to external nature and to merely typical psychological 

Knowledge of Nature and of Persons 309 

§ 2 . Knowledge of External Nature vs. 

Knowledge of Persons 

If A and B have different conceptions of M, this by no means 
necessarily implies incompleteness or deception. Rather, in view 
of the relation in which A stands to M, A’s nature and the total 
circumstances being what they are, A’s picture of M is true for 
him in the same manner in which, for B, a different picture is 
true. It would be quite erroneous to say that, above these two 
pictures, there is the objectively correct knowledge about M, 
and that A’s and B’s images are legitimated to the extent to 
which they coincide with this objective knowledge. Rather, the 
ideal truth which the picture of M in the conception of A ap- 
proaches — to be sure, only asymptotically — is something dif- 
ferent, even as an ideal, from that of B. It contains as an integrat- 
ing, form-giving precondition the psychological peculiarity of 
A and the particular relation into which A and M are brought 
by their specific characters and destinies. 

Every relationship between persons gives rise to a picture of 
each in the other; and this picture, obviously, interacts with 
the actual relation. The relation constitutes the condition under 
which the conception, that each has of the other, takes this or 
that shape and has its truth legitimated. On the other hand, the 
real interaction between the individuals is based upon the pic- 
tures which they acquire of one another. Here we have one of 
the deep-lying circuits of intellectual life, where an element 
presupposes a second element which yet, in turn, presupposes 
the first. While, in narrow fields, this is a fallacy that invalidates 
everything, in more general and fundamental fields it is the 
inevitable expression of the unity into which both elements 
fuse, a unity which, with our forms of thought, cannot be ex- 
pressed otherwise than by saying that we build the first upon 
the second and, at the same time, the second upon the first. Our 
relationships thus develop upon the basis of reciprocal knowl- 
edge, and this knowledge upon the basis of the actual relations. 
Both are inextricably interwoven. In their alternation within 
sociological interaction, they reveal interaction as one of the 
points where being and conceiving make their mysterious unity 
empirically felt. 

308 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 

social level, may strike one as an empty form; yet it is an adequate 
symbol of the mutual knowledge presupposed by every relation- 
ship. We are very often not conscious of this because, for a 
large number of relations, we need to know only that quite 
typical tendencies and qualities are present on both sides. The 
necessary character of these tendencies is usually noted only 
when, on occasion, they are absent. It would be worth a special 
investigation to find out the kind and degree of reciprocal 
knowledge required by various relations among people; to find 
out how the general psychological assumptions, with which 
everybody approaches everybody else, are interwoven with the 
special experiences in regard to the particular individual with 
whom we interact; how, in many fields, reciprocal knowledge 
does not have to be equal on both sides or is not permitted to 
be; to discover how the development of existing relations is 
determined merely by the growing knowledge, on both sides 
or on one side, about the other; finally, on the other hand, how 
our objectively psychological picture of the other individual 
is influenced by real, practical and sentimental, relations. 

This last influence is by no means one of mere falsification. 
It is entirely legitimate that the theoretical conception we have 
of a particular individual should vary with the standpoint from 
which it is formed, a standpoint which is the result of the over- 
all relation between knower and known. One can never know 
another person absolutely, which would involve knowledge of 
every single thought and mood. Nevertheless, one forms some 
personal unity out of those of his fragments in which alone he 
is accessible to us. This unity, therefore, depends upon the 
portion of him which our standpoint permits us to see. But such 
differences by no means arise from differences in the quantity 
of knowledge alone. No psychological knowledge is a mere 
stereotype of its object but depends, as does the knowledge of 
external nature, upon the forms which the cognizing mind 
brings to it and in which it receives the given. But where the 
knowledge of individuals is at issue, these forms differ very much 
individually. They do not attain the scientific generality and 
super-subjective power of conviction which can be reached with 
respect to external nature and to merely typical psychological 

Knowledge of Nature and of Persons 309 

§ 2. Knowledge of External Nature vs. 

Knowledge of Persons 

If A and B have different conceptions of M, this by no means 
necessarily implies incompleteness or deception. Rather, in view 
of the relation in which A stands to M, A’s nature and the total 
circumstances being what they are, A’s picture of M is true for 
him in the same manner in which, for B, a different picture is 
true. It would be quite erroneous to say that, above these two 
pictures, there is the objectively correct knowledge about M, 
and that A’s and B’s images are legitimated to the extent to 
which they coincide with this objective knowledge. Rather, the 
ideal truth which the picture of M in the conception of A ap- 
proaches — to be sure, only asymptotically — is something dif- 
ferent, even as an ideal, from that of B. It contains as an integrat- 
ing, form-giving precondition the psychological peculiarity of 
A and the particular relation into which A and M are brought 
by their specific characters and destinies. 

Every relationship between persons gives rise to a picture of 
each in the other; and this picture, obviously, interacts with 
the actual relation. The relation constitutes the condition under 
which the conception, that each has of the other, takes this or 
that shape and has its truth legitimated. On the other hand, the 
real interaction between the individuals is based upon the pic- 
tures which they acquire of one another. Here we have one of 
the deep-lying circuits of intellectual life, where an element 
presupposes a second element which yet, in turn, presupposes 
the first. While, in narrow fields, this is a fallacy that invalidates 
everything, in more general and fundamental fields it is the 
inevitable expression of the unity into which both elements 
fuse, a unity which, with our forms of thought, cannot be ex- 
pressed otherwise than by saying that we build the first upon 
the second and, at the same time, the second upon the first. Our 
relationships thus develop upon the basis of reciprocal knowl- 
edge, and this knowledge upon the basis of the actual relations. 
Both are inextricably interwoven. In their alternation within 
sociological interaction, they reveal interaction as one of the 
points where being and conceiving make their mysterious unity 
empirically felt. 

310 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 
§ 3. Truth, Error, and Social Life 

Our conduct is based upon our knowledge of total reality. 
But this knowledge is characterized by peculiar limitations and 
distortions. That “error alone is life, and knowledge, death§ ** 
cannot, of course, be valid as a principle, because a person caught 
in continuous error would continuously act in an inexpedient 
fashion, and thus inevitably would perish. And yet, in view 
of our accidental and defective adaptations to our life conditions, 
there is no doubt that we preserve and acquire not only so much 
truth, but also so much ignorance and error, as is appropriate 
for our practical activities. We have only to think of the great 
insights which transform human life, but which fail to make 
their appearance or go unnoticed, unless the total cultural situa- 
tion renders them possible and useful. Or we may think, on the 
other hand, of the ''LebensliXge” [“vital lie**] of the individual 
who is so often in need of deceiving himself in regard to his 
capacities, even in regard to his feelings, and who cannot do 
without superstition about gods and men, in order to maintain 
his life and his potentialities. In the sense that the expediency 
of the external as of the internal life sees to it that we obtain 
the exact amounts of error and truth which constitute the basis 
of the conduct required of us, error and truth are psychologically 
coordinate — although, of course, only by and large, and with a 
wide latitude for variations and defective adaptations. 

§ 4. The Individual as an Object of Knowledge 

But within the range of objects, which we may know cor- 
rectly or about which we may be deceived, there is a section 
wherein both truth and deception can attain a character that is 
not found anywhere else. This is the inner life of the individual 
with whom we interact. He may, intentionally either reveal the 
truth about himself to us, or deceive us by lie and concealment. 
No other object of knowledge can reveal or hide itself in the 
same way, because no other object modifies its behavior in view 
of the fact that it is recognized. This modification, of course, 
does not occur always; very often, even the other individual is 
basically no more to us than a piece of nature which poses for 

The Nature of the Psychic Process 311 

our cognition, as it were. Insofar as this cognition goes by utter- 
ances made by the other, and particularly by utterances which 
are not modified by any thought of being utilized for our cog- 
nition but which are wholly spontaneous and immediate com- 
munications, there becomes apparent an element of fundamental 
importance for the determination of the individual by his en- 
vironment. Our psychic process, which runs its course in a 
purely natural manner, is nevertheless, as far as its content is 
concerned, almost always, at the same time, in accordance with 
the norms of logic. This has been declared a problem; and the 
most far-reaching conclusions have been drawn from it. 

§5. The Nature of the Psychic Process and 
of Communication 

In fact, it is most remarkable that an event engendered ex- 
clusively by natural causes should proceed as if governed by the 
ideal laws of logic. For, it is exactly as if a tree branch, so con- 
nected with a telegraphic apparatus that its movements in the 
wind set the apparatus in motion, thereby caused signs in it that 
yield a rational meaning to us. The whole of this problem is not 
at issue here; but one remark must be made. Our actual psy- 
chological processes are governed by logic in a much slighter 
degree than their expressions make us believe. If we look closely 
at our conceptions as they pass our consciousness in a continuous 
temporal sequence, we find that there is a very great distance 
between any regulation by rational norms and the characteristics 
of these conceptions: namely, their flaring up, their zigzag mo- 
tions, the chaotic whirling of images and ideas which objectively 
are entirely unrelated to one another, and their logically un- 
justifiable, only so-to-speak probative, connections. But we are 
only rarely conscious of this, because the accents of our interests 
lie merely on the “usable” portion of our imaginative life. 
Usually we quickly pass over, or “overhear,” its leaps, its non- 
rationality, its chaos, in spite of their psychological factualness, 
in favor of what is logical or otherwise useful, at least to some 

All we communicate to another individual by means of 
words or perhaps in another fashion — even the most subjective. 

812 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 

impulsive, intimate matters — is a selection from that psycholog- 
ical-real whole whose absolutely exact report (absolutely exact 
in terms of content and sequence) would drive everybody into 
the insane asylum — if a paradoxical expression is permissible. 
In a quantitative sense, it is not only fragments of our inner life 
which we alone reveal, even to our closest fellowmen. What is 
more, these fragments are not a representative selection, but 
one made from the standpoint of reason, value, and relation to 
the listener and his understanding. Whatever we say, as long as 
it goes beyond mere interjection and minimal communication, 
is never an immediate and faithful presentation of what really 
occurs in us during that particular time of communication, but 
is a transformation of this inner reality, teleologically directed, 
reduced, and recomposed. With an instinct automatically pre- 
venting us from doing otherwise, we show nobody the course 
of our psychic processes in their purely causal reality and — from 
the standpoints of logic, objectivity, and meaningfulness — com- 
plete incoherence and irrationality. Always, we show only a 
section of them, stylized by selection and arrangement. We sim- 
ply cannot imagine any interaction or social relation or society 
which are not based on this teleologically determined non- 
knowledge of one another. This intrinsic, a priori, and (as it 
were) absolute presupposition includes all relative differences 
which are familiar to us under the concepts of sincere revelations 
and mendacious concealments. 

§ 6 . The Lie 

Every lie, no matter how objective its topic, engenders by 
its very nature an error concerning the lying subject. The lie 
consists in the fact that the liar hides his true idea from the 
other. Its specific nature is not exhaustively characterized by 
the fact that the person lied-to has a false conception about the 
topic or object; this the lie shares with common error. What 
is specific is that he is kept deceived about the private opinion 
of the liar. 

Truthfulness and lie are of the most far-reaching significance 
for relations among men. Sociological structures differ pro- 
foundly according to the measure of lying which operates in 

The Lie S13 

them. In the first place, in very simple circumstances the lie 
is often more harmless in regard to the maintenance of the group 
than under more complex conditions. Primitive man who lives 
in a small group, who satisfies his needs through his own pro- 
duction or through direct cooperation, who limits his intellec- 
tual interests to his own experiences or to unilinear tradition, 
surveys and controls the material of his life more easily and com- 
pletely than does the man of higher cultures. To he sure, the 
innumerable errors and superstitions in the life of primitive 
man are harmful enough to him, but far less so than are corre- 
sponding ones in advanced epochs, because the practice of his 
life is guided in the main by those few facts and circumstances 
of which his narrow angle of vision permits him to gain directly 
a correct view. In a richer and larger cultural life, however, 
existence rests on a thousand premises which the single indi- 
vidual cannot trace and verify to their roots at all, but must take 
on faith. Our modern life is based to a much larger extent than 
is usually realized upon the faith in the honesty of the other. 
Examples are our economy, which becomes more and more a 
credit economy, or our science, in which most scholars must 
use innumerable results of other scientists which they cannot 
examine. We .base our gravest decisions on a complex system 
of conceptions, most of which presuppose the confidence that 
we will not be betrayed. Under modern conditions, the lie, 
therefore, becomes something much more devastating than it 
was earlier, something which questions the very foundations of 
our life. If among ourselves today, the lie were as negligible a 
sin as it was among the Greek gods, the Jewish patriarchs, or 
the South Seas islanders; and if we were not deterred from it 
by the utmost severity of the moral law; then the organization 
of modern life would be simply impossible; for, modern life is 
a “credit economy** in a much broader than a strictly economic 

These historical differences are paralleled by distances of 
other dimensions as well. The farther removed individuals are 
from our most intimate personality, the more easily can we come 
to terms with their untruthfulness, both in a practical and in 
an intimate psychological sense — ^while if the few persons closest 
to us lie, life becomes unbearable. This is a banality, but it must 

314 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 

be noted in a sociological light, because it shows that the meas- 
ures of truthfulness and mendacity which are compatible with 
the existence of certain conditions, constitute a scale on which 
the measures of intensity of these conditions can be read off. 

In addition to this relative sociological permissibility of the 
lie under primitive circumstances, there is also its positive ex- 
pediency. Where a first organization, arrangement, centralization 
of the group is at stake, this organization will take place through 
the subordination of the weak under the physically and intellec- 
tually superior. The lie which maintains itself, which is not 
seen through, is undoubtedly a means of asserting intellectual 
superiority and of using it to control and suppress the less in- 
telligent. It is an intellectual club law as brutal, but on occasion 
as appropriate, as physical club law. It may operate as a selecting 
factor to breed intelligence or create leisure for the few for 
whom others must work; for the few who need the leisure for 
producing higher cultural goods or for giving a leader to the 
group forces. The more easily these aims can be reached by 
means whose incidental consequences are only slightly unde- 
sirable, the less is there need for lying, and the more is there 
room for being aware of its ethically objectionable character. 
Historically this process is by no means completed. Even today, 
retail trade believes that it cannot do without mendacious claims 
concerning certain merchandise, and therefore practices them 
with good conscience. But wholesale business and retail trade 
on a really large scale, have overcome this stage and can afford 
to proceed with complete sincerity when offering their goods. 
Once the business practice of the small and middle-sized mer- 
chant reaches the same perfection, the exaggerations and out- 
right falsehoods of advertising and praising, for which it is not 
usually blamed today, will meet with the same ethical condem- 
nation which already is meted out wherever these falsehoods 
are no longer required by practice. In general, intra-group inter- 
action based on truthfulness will be the more appropriate, the 
more the welfare of the many, rather than of the few, constitutes 
the norm of the group. For, those who are lied-to, that is, those 
who are harmed by the lie, will always constitute the majority 
over the liars who find their advantage in lying. For this reason, 

The Lie 315 

‘‘enlightenment,” which aims at the removal of the untruths 
operating in social life, is entirely democratic in character. 

Human interaction is normally based on the fact that the 
ideational worlds of men have certain elements in common, 
that objective intellectual contents constitute the material which 
is transformed into subjective life by means of men’s social rela- 
tions. The type, as well as the essential instrument, of these 
common elements is shared language. But, on closer examina- 
tion, it appears that the basis discussed here, by no means con- 
sists only in what both of two interacting individuals know, or 
with what they are acquainted as the phychological content of 
one another. For, it must also be noted that all of this is inter- 
woven with elements known to only one of the two. This limita- 
tion reveals significances even more basic than those which re- 
sult from the contrast between the non-logical and contingent 
reality of the ideational process and the logical and teleological 
selection we make of it in order to show it to others. Human 
nature is dualistic: we feel that each of its expressions Hows from 
a plurality of divergent sources; we consider each measure of it 
as great or small, according to its comparison with something 
smaller or greater. 

This same dualism also causes sociological relationships to 
be determined in a twofold manner. Concord, harmony, co- 
efficacy, which are unquestionably held to be socializing forces, 
must nevertheless be interspersed with distance, competition, 
repulsion, in order to yield the actual configuration of society. 
The solid, organizational forms which seem to constitute or 
create society, must constantly be disturbed, disbalanced, 
gnawed-at by individualistic, irregular forces, in order to gain 
their vital reaction and development through submission and 
resistance. Intimate relations, whose formal medium is physical 
and psychological nearness, lose the attractiveness, even the 
content of their intimacy, as soon as the close relationship does 
not also contain, simultaneously and alternatingly, distances and 
intermissions. Finally, and this is the decisive point: although 
reciprocal knowledge conditions relationships positively, after 
all, it does not do this by itself alone. Relationships being what 
they are, they also presuppose a certain ignorance and a measure 
of mutual concealment, even though this measure varies im- 

316 Knowledge, Truth, Falsehood in Human Relations 

mensely, to be sure. The lie is merely a very crude and, ulti- 
mately, often a contradictory form in which this necessity shows 
itself. However often a lie may destroy a given relationship, as 
long as the relationship existed, the lie was an integral element 
of it. The ethically negative value of the lie must not blind us 
to its sociologically quite positive significance for the formation 
of certain concrete relations. In regard to the elementary socio- 
logical fact at issue here — the restriction of the knowledge of the 
one about the other — it must be remembered that the lie is only 
one among all possible available means. It is the positive and, 
as it were, aggressive technique, whose purpose is more often at- 
tained by mere secrecy and concealment. These more general 
and more negative forms will be discussed in the following pages. 

Chapter 2 

Types of Social Relationships 
by Degrees of Reciprocal 
Knowledge of Their 


secret in the sense of a consciously desired concealment, one 
must note the different degrees to which various relationships 
leave the reciprocal knowledge of the total personalities of their 
members outside their province. 

§ 1 . Interest Groups 

Among the various groups still involving direct interaction, 
the most important is the association based on some particular 
interest [Zweckverband'\y more especially that which involves 
completely objective member contributions, determined by 
mere membership. The purest form here is monetary contribu- 
tion. In this case, interaction, solidarity, and the pursuit of com- 
mon purposes do not depend on everybody’s psychological 
knowledge of everybody else. As a group member, the individual 
is only the executor of a certain function. Questions concerning 
those individual motives which determine this performance, 
or the sort of total personality in which his conduct is imbedded, 
are completely irrelevant. The association based on some par- 
ticular interest is the discreet sociological form par excellence. 
Its members are psychologically anonymous. In order to form 
the association, all they have to know of one another is precisely 


318 Types of Social Relationships 

this fact — that they form it. The increasing objectification of 
our culture, whose phenomena consist more and more of im- 
personal elements and less and less absorb the subjective totality 
of the individual (most simply shown by the contrast between 
handicraft and factory work), also involves sociological struc- 
tures. Therefore, groups into which earlier man entered in his 
totality and individuality and which, for this reason, required 
reciprocal knowledge far beyond the immediate, objective con- 
tent of the relationship — these groups are now based exclusively 
on this objective content, which is neatly factored out of the 
whole relation. 

§ 2. Confidence under More and Less Complex Conditions 

This development also gives a peculiar evolution to an ante- 
cedent or subsequent form of knowledge about a human being, 
namely, confidence in him. Confidence, evidently, is one of the 
most important synthetic forces within society. As a hypothesis 
regarding future behavior, a hypothesis certain enough to serve 
as a basis for practical conduct, confidence is intermediate be- 
tween knowledge and ignorance about a man. The person who 
knows completely need not trust; while the person who knows 
nothing can, on no rational grounds, afford even confidence.^ 
Epochs, fields of interest, and individuals differ, characteristic- 

1 There is, to be sure, also another type of confidence. But since it stands outside 
the categories of knowledge and ignorance, it touches the present discussion only 
indirectly. This type is called the faith of one man in another. It belongs in the 
category of religious faith. Just as nobody has ever believed in God on the basis 
of any “proof of the existence of God,” since, on the contrary, these proofs are 
post-festum justifications or intellectual mirrors of a completely immediate, affec- 
tive attitude, so one “believes” in a particular man without justifying this faith 
by proofs of his worthiness, and often even in spite of proofs to the contrary. This 
confidence, this inner unreservedness in regard to another individual, is mediated 
neither by experiences nor by hypotheses; it is a primary, fundamental attitude 
toward the other. In an entirely pure form, detached from any empirical considera- 
tion, this state of faith probably exists only within religion. In regard to men, it 
always, presumably, needs some stimulation or confirmation by the knowledge or 
expectation mentioned above. On the other hand, even in the social forms of con- 
fidence, no matter how exactly and intellectually grounded they may appear to be, 
there may yet be some additional affective, even mystical, “faith” of man in man. 
Perhaps what has been characterized here is a fundamental category of human 
conduct, which goes back to the metaphysical sense of our relationships and which 
is realized in a merely empirical, accidental, fragmentary manner by the conscious 
and particular reasons for confidence. 

Confidence under Complex Conditions 319 

ally, by the measures of knowledge and ignorance which must 
mix in order that the single, practical decision based on confi- 
dence arise. 

The objectification of culture has decisively differentiated 
the quanta of knowledge and ignorance necessary for confidence. 
The modern merchant who enters business with another; the 
scholar who together with another embarks upon an investiga- 
tion; the leader of a political party who makes an agreement 
with the leader of another party concerning matters of election 
or the treatment of pending bills; all these know (if we overlook 
exceptions and imperfections) only exactly that and no more 
about their partner which they have to know for the sake of the 
relationship they wish to enter. The traditions and institutions, 
the power of public opinion and the definition of the position 
which inescapably stamps the individual, have become so solid 
and reliable that one has to know only certain external facts 
about the other person in order to have the confidence required 
for the common action. The question is no longer some founda- 
tion of personal qualities on which (at least in principle) a 
modification of behavior within the relation might be based: 
motivation and regulation of this behavior have become so 
objectified that confidence no longer needs any properly per- 
sonal knowledge. Under more primitive, less differentiated con- 
ditions, the individual knows much more about his partner in 
regard to personal matters, and much less in regard to his purely 
objective competence. The two belong together: in order to 
produce the necessary confidence despite a lack of knowledge 
in objective matters, a much higher degree of knowledge in 
personal matters is necessary. 

The purely general knowledge, which extends only to the 
objective elements of the person and leaves its secret — the 
personal-individual area — untouched, must be supplemented 
considerably by the knowledge of this very area, whenever the 
interest group is of essential significance to the total existence 
of its members. The merchant who sells grain or oil needs to 
know only whether his correspondent is good for the price. 
But if he takes him as his associate, he must not only know his 
financial standing and certain of his very general qualities, but 
he must have thorough insight into him as a personality; he must 

320 Types of Social Relationships 

know whether he is decent, compatible, and whether he has a 
daring or hesitant temperament. Upon such reciprocal knowl- 
edge rest not only the beginning of the relationship, but also 
its whole development, the daily common actions, and the divi- 
sion of functions between the partners. Today the secret of the 
personality is sociologically more limited. In view of the large 
extent to which the interest in the common pursuit is borne by 
personal qualities, the personal element can no longer be so 

§ 3 . Acquaintance^^ 

Aside from interest groups but aside, equally, from relation- 
ships rooted in the total personality, there is the sociologically 
highly peculiar relation which, in our times, among educated 
strata, is designated simply as ‘'acquaintance.'’ Mutual “ac- 
quaintance” by no means is knowledge of one another; it in- 
volves no actual insight into the individual nature of the per- 
sonality. It only means that one has taken notice of the other’s 
existence, as it were. It is characteristic that the idea of acquaint- 
ance is suggested by the mere mentioning of one’s name, by 
“introducing oneself”: “acquaintance” depends upon the 
knowledge of the that of the personality, not of its what. After 
all, by saying that one is acquainted, even well acquainted, with 
a particular person, one characterizes quite clearly the lack of 
really intimate relations. Under the rubric of acquaintance, one 
knows of the other only what he is toward the outside, either 
in the purely social-representative s^ense, or in the sense of that 
which he shows us. The degree of knowledge covered by “being 
well acquainted with one another,” refers not to the other per se; 
not to what is essential in him, intrinsically, but only to what is 
significant for that aspect of him which is turned toward others 
and the world. 

§ 4 . Discretion 

Acquaintance in this social sense is, therefore, the proper 
seat of “discretion.” For, discretion consists by no means only 
in the respect for the secret of the other, for his specific will to 

Discretion 321 

conceal this or that from us, but in staying away from the 
knowledge of all that the other does not expressly reveal to us. 
It does not refer to anything particular which we are not per- 
mitted to know, but to a quite general reserve in regard to the 
total personality. Discretion is a special form of the typical 
contrast between the imperatives, “what is not prohibited is 
allowed,” and “what is not allowed is prohibited.” Relations 
among men are thus distinguished according to the question 
of mutual knowledge — of either “what is not concealed may 
be known,” or “what is not revealed must not be known.” 

To act upon the second of these decisions corresponds to the 
feeling (which also operates elsewhere) that an ideal sphere lies 
around every human being. Although differing in size in various 
directions and differing according to the person with whom one 
entertains relations, this sphere cannot be penetrated, unless 
the personality value of the individual is thereby destroyed. 
A sphere of this sort is placed around man by his “honor.” 
Language very poignantly designates an insult to one’s honor as 
“coming too close”: the radius of this sphere marks, as it were, 
the distance whose trespassing by another person insults one’s 

Another -sphere of the same form corresponds to what is 
called the “significance” of a personality. In regard to the 
“significant” [“great”] man, there is an inner compulsion which 
tells one to keep at a distance and which does not disappear 
even in intimate relations with him. The only type for whom 
such distance does not exist is the individual who has no organ 
for perceiving significance. For this reason, the “valet” knows 
no such sphere of distance; for him there is no “hero”; but 
this is due, not to the hero, but to the valet. For the same reason, 
all importunity is associated with a striking lack of feeling for 
differences in the significance of men. The individual who fails 
to keep his distance from a great person does not esteem him 
highly, much less too highly (as might superficially appear to be 
the case) ; but, on the contrary, his importune behavior reveals 
lack of proper respect. The painter often emphasizes the sig- 
nificance of a figure in a picture that contains many figures by 
arranging the others in a considerable distance from it. In an 
analogous fashion, the sociological simile of significance is the 

322 Types of Social Relationships 

distance which keeps the individual outside a certain sphere 
that is occupied by the power, will, and greatness of a person. 

The same sort of circle which surrounds man — although it 
is value-accentuated in a very different sense — is filled out by 
his affairs and by his characteristics. To penetrate this circle by 
taking notice, constitutes a violation of his personality. Just as 
material property is, so to speak, an extension of the ego, 2 and 
any interference with our property is, for this reason, felt to be 
a violation of the person, there also is an intellectual private- 
property, whose violation effects a lesion of the ego in its very 
center. Discretion is nothing but the feeling that there exists 
a right in regard to the sphere of the immediate life contents. 
Discretion, of course, differs in its extension with different per- 
sonalities, just as the positions of honor and of property have 
different radii with respect to ‘"close” individuals, and to 
strangers and indifferent persons. In the case of the above- 
mentioned, more properly “social” relations, which are most 
conveniently designated as “acquaintances,” the point to which 
discretion extends is, above all, a very typical boundary: beyond 
it, perhaps there are not even any jealously guarded secrets; but 
conventionally and discreetly, the other individual, neverthe- 
less, does not trespass it by questions or other invasions. 

The question where this boundary lies cannot be answered 
in terms of a simple principle; it leads into the finest ramifica- 
tions of societal formation. For, in an absolute sense, the right 
to intellectual private-property can be affirmed as little as can 
the right to material property. We know that, in higher civiliza- 
tions, material private-property in its essential three dimensions 
— ^acquisition, insurance, increase — is never based on the indi- 
vidual’s own forces alone. It always requires the conditions and 
forces of the social milieu. From the beginning, therefore, it is 
limited by the right of the whole, whether through taxation or 
through certain checks on acquisition. But this right is grounded 
more deeply than just in the principle of service and counter- 
service between society and individual: it is grounded in the 
much more elementary principle, that the part must sustain as 
great a restriction upon its autonomous existence and posses- 

2 Property is that which obeys the will of the owner, as, for instance (with a 
difference of degree only), our body which is our first “property.’* 

Discretion S23 

siveness as the maintenance and the purposes o£ the whole 

This also applies to the inner sphere of man. In the interest 
of interaction and social cohesion, the individual must know 
certain things about the other person. Nor does the other have 
the right to oppose this knowledge from a moral standpoint, by 
demanding the discretion of the first: he cannot claim the en- 
tirely undisturbed possession of his own being and conscious- 
ness, since this discretion might harm the interests of his society. 
The businessman who contracts long-range obligations with 
another; the master who employs a servant (but also the servant 
before entering the service); the superior who advances a sub- 
ordinate; the housewife who accepts a new member into her 
social circle: all these must have the right to learn or infer those 
aspects of the other’s past and present, temperament, and moral 
quality on the basis of which they can act rationally in regard 
to him, or reject him. These are very crude instances of the case 
where the duty of discretion — to renounce the knowledge of all 
that the other does not voluntarily show us — recedes before 
practical requirements. But even in subtler and less unambig- 
uous forms, in fragmentary beginnings and unexpressed notions, 
all of human. intercourse rests on the fact that everybody knows 
somewhat more about the other than the other voluntarily re- 
veals to him; and those things he knows are frequently matters 
whose knowledge the other person (were he aware of it) would 
find undesirable. 

All this may be considered indiscretion in the individual 
sense: in the social sense, it is a condition necessary for the 
concrete density and vitality of interaction. Nevertheless, it is 
extremely difficult to trace the legal limit of this trespass into 
intellectual private-property. In general, man arrogates to him- 
self the right to know all he can find out through mere observa- 
tion and reflection, without applying externally illegitimate 
means. As a matter of fact, however, indiscretion practiced in 
this fashion can be just as violent and morally inadmissible as 
listening behind closed doors and leering at a stranger’s letters. 
To the man with the psychologically fine ear, people innumer- 
able times betray their most secret thoughts and qualities, not 
only although, but often because, they anxiously try to guard 

324 Types of Social Relationships 

them. The avid, spying grasp of every inconsiderate word, the 
boring reflection on what this or that tone of voice might mean, 
how such and such utterances might be combined, what blush- 
ing on mentioning a certain name might betray — none of this 
transcends the limits of external discretion; it is entirely the 
work of one's own intellect and, for this reason, one's appar- 
ently indisputable right. And all the more so, since such an 
abuse of psychological superiority often occurs quite involun- 
tarily: often we simply cannot check our interpretation of the 
other, our construction of his inner nature. No matter how 
much every decent person tells himself that he must not muse 
on what the other hides, that he must not exploit the slips and 
helplessnesses of the other; knowledge, nevertheless, occurs often 
so automatically, and its result confronts us with such striking 
suddenness, that mere good will has no power over it. Where 
the doubtlessly impermissible can yet be so inevitable, the 
boundary between what is allowed and what is not, is all the 
more blurred. How far discretion must refrain from touching 
even intellectually ‘'all that is his"; how far, on the other hand, 
the interests of interaction and the interdependence of the mem- 
bers of society limit this duty — this is a question for whose 
answer neither moral tact nor knowledge of objective condi- 
tions and their requirements alone is sufficient, since both are 
needed. The subtlety and complexity of this question relegate 
it to the individual decision which cannot be prejudged by any 
general norm — to a much higher degree than does the question 
of private property in the material sense. 

§ 5 . Friendship and Love 

In this pre-form or complementation of the secret, the point 
is not the behavior of the individual who keeps a secret, but the 
behavior of another individual: within the mixture of recip- 
rocal knowledge or ignorance, the accent is more on the degree 
of knowledge than of ignorance. We now come to a totally dif- 
ferent configuration. It is found in those relationships which, 
in contrast to the ones discussed, do not center around clearly 
circumscribed interests that must be fixed objectively, if only 
because of their “superficiality." Instead, they are built, at least 

Friendship and Love S25 

in their idea, upon the person in its totality. The principal types 
here are friendship and marriage. 

To the extent that the ideal of friendship was received from 
antiquity and (peculiarly enough) was developed in a romantic 
spirit, it aims at an absolute psychological intimacy, and is ac- 
companied by the notion that even material property should be 
common to friends. This entering of the whole undivided ego 
into the relationship may be more plausible in friendship than 
in love for the reason that friendship lacks the specific concen- 
tration upon one element which love derives from its sensuous- 
ness. To be sure, by virtue of the fact that one among the total 
range of possible reasons for a relation takes the lead, these 
reasons attain a certain organization, as a group does through 
leadership. A particularly strong relational factor often blazes 
the trail on which the rest follow it, when they would otherwise 
remain latent; and undoubtedly, for most people, sexual love 
opens the doors of the total personality more widely than does 
anything else. For not a few, in fact, love is the only form in 
which they can give their ego in its totality, just as to the artist 
the form of his art offers the only possibility for revealing his 
whole inner life. Probably, this observation can be made espe- 
cially often of women (although the very differently understood 
‘‘Christian love** is also designed to achieve the same result). 
Not only because they love do women unreservedly offer the 
total remainder of their being and having; but all of this, so to 
speak, is chemically dissolved in love, and overflows to the other 
being exclusively and entirely in the color, form, and tempera- 
ment of love. Yet, where the feeling of love is not sufficiently 
expansive, and the remaining psychological contents of the rela- 
tionship are not sufficiently malleable, the preponderance of the 
erotic bond may suppress, as I have already suggested, the other 
contacts (practical-moral, intellectual), as well as the opening-up 
of those reservoirs of the personality that lie outside the erotic 

Friendship lacks this vehemence, but also the frequent un- 
evenness, of this abandon. It may be, therefore, more apt than 
love to connect a whole person with another person in its en- 
tirety; it may melt reserves more easily than love does — if not 
as stormily, yet on a larger scale and in a more enduring 

326 Types of Social Relationships 

sequence. Yet such complete intimacy becomes probably more 
and more difficult as differentiation among men increases. 
Modem man, possibly, has too much to hide to sustain a friend- 
ship in the ancient sense. Besides, except for their earliest years, 
personalities are perhaps too uniquely individualized to allow 
full reciprocity of understanding and receptivity, which always, 
after all, requires much creative imagination and much divina- 
tion which is oriented only toward the other. It would seem that, 
for all these reasons, the modem way of feeling tends more 
heavily toward differentiated friendships, which cover only one 
side of the personality, without playing into other aspects of it. 

Thus a very special type of friendship emerges, which is of 
the greatest significance for our problem (the degrees of invasion 
and reserve within the friendship relation). These differentiated 
friendships which connect us with one individual in terms of 
affection, with another, in terms of common intellectual aspects, 
with a third, in terms of religious impulses, and with a fourth, 
in terms of common experiences — all these friendships present 
a very peculiar synthesis in regard to the question of discretion, 
of reciprocal revelation and concealment. They require that 
the friends do not look into those mutual spheres of interest 
and feeling which, after all, are not included in the relation and 
which, if touched upon, would make them feel painfully the 
limits of their mutual understanding. But the relation which is 
thus restricted and surrounded by discretions, may yet stem 
from the center of the total personality. It may yet be reached 
by the sap of the ultimate roots of the personality, even though 
it feeds only part of the person’s periphery. In its idea, it involves 
the same affective depth and the same readiness for sacrifice, 
which less differentiated epochs and persons connect only with 
a common total sphere of life, for which reservations and dis- 
cretions constitute no problem. 

§ 6 . Marriage 

The measures of self-revelation and self-restraint, with their 
complements of trespass and discretion, are much more difficult 
to determine in the case of marriage. Their ratio here belongs 
in a very general problem area of extreme importance to the 

Marriage 327 

scxriology of intimate relations. This problem area centers 
around the question whether the maximum of common values 
can be attained under the condition that the personalities re- 
ciprocally relinquish their autonomies altogether, or under the 
condition of reserve: the question whether, perhaps, they do 
not belong more to one another qualitatively if, quantitatively, 
they do so less. This question can be answered, of course, only 
along with the other question as to how, within the total com- 
municability of man, one can draw the line where restraint and 
respect of the other begin. The advantage of modern marriage — 
which, certainly, can answer both questions only from case to 
case — is that this line is not fixed from the beginning, as it is in 
other and earlier civilizations. In earlier cultures particularly, 
marriage is not an erotic but, in principle, only a social and 
economic institution. The satisfaction of the desire for love is 
only accidentally connected with it; it is contracted (with excep- 
tions, of course), not only on the basis of individual attraction, 
but on the ground of family connections, working conditions, 
and descendants. In this respect, the Greeks achieved a particu- 
larly clear differentiation — according to Demosthenes: “We 
have hetaerae for pleasure; concubines for our daily needs; and 
wives to give .us legitimate children and take care of the interior 
of the house.’* In such a mechanical relationship, the psychic 
center is obviously put out of function. Nevertheless (incident- 
ally), this kind of marriage is constantly illustrated, though with 
certain modifications, by history and by the observation of 
actual contemporary marriages. There probably exists in it 
neither the need for any intimate, reciprocal self-revelation, 
nor the possibility of it. On the other hand, there is probably 
an absence of certain reserves of delicacy and chastity which, in 
spite of their seemingly negative character, are yet the flower 
of a fully internalized and personal, intimate relation. 

The same tendency to exclude, a priori and by super- 
individual decree, certain life-contents from the common fea- 
tures of marriage lies in the variety of marriage forms which 
may coexist among the same people. Prior to entering marriage, 
the prospective spouses must choose among these forms, which 
variously distinguish economic, religious, and domestic-legal 
interests in their bearing upon matrimony. We find this among 

328 Types of Social Relationships 

many nature peoples, as well as among the Hindus and Romans. 
Nobody will deny, of course, that even in modern life, marriage 
is probably contracted overwhelmingly from conventional or 
material motives. Yet no matter how often it is actualized, the 
sociological idea of modern marriage is the commonness of all 
life-contents, insofar as they determine the value and fate of 
the personality, immediately or through their effects. Nor is the 
nature of this ideal requirement without results: often enough 
it allows, or even stimulates, an initially quite imperfect union 
to develop into an ever more comprehensive one. But, whereas 
the very interminability of this process is the instrument of the 
happiness and inner vitality of the relationship, its reversal 
usually entails grave disappointments — namely, when abso- 
lute unity is anticipated from the beginning, when neither de- 
mand nor revelation knows restraint, not even the restraint 
which, for all finer and deeper natures, remains locked in the 
obscurity of the soul even where it seems to pour itself out before 
the other entirely. 

During the first stages of the relationship there is a great 
temptation, both in marriage and in marriage-like free love, 
to let oneself be completely absorbed by the other, to send the 
last reserves of the soul after those of the body, to lose oneself to 
the other without reservation. Yet, in most cases, this abandon 
probably threatens the future of the relationship seriously. Only 
those individuals can give themselves wholly without danger 
who cannot wholly give themselves, because their wealth con- 
sists in a continuous development in which every abandon is at 
once followed by new treasures. Such individuals have an inex- 
haustible reservoir of latent psychological possessions, and hence 
can no more reveal and give them away at one stroke than a 
tree can give away next year's fruits with those of the season. 
But other individuals are different. With every flight of feeling, 
with every unconditional abandonment, with every revelation 
of their inner life, they make inroads (as it were) into their 
capital, because they lack the mainspring of ever renewed 
psychic affluence which can neither be exhaustively revealed 
nor be separated from the ego. In these cases, the spouses have 
a good chance of coming to face one another with empty hands; 
and the Dionysian bliss of giving may leave behind it an im- 

Marriage 329 

poverishment which, unjustly, but no less bitterly for that, 
belies in restrospect even past abandons and their happiness. 

We are, after all, made in such a way that we need not only 
a certain proportion of truth and error as the basis of our lives 
(as was pointed out earlier), but also a certain proportion of 
distinctness and indistinctness in the image of our life-elements. 
The other individual must give us not only gifts we may accept, 
but the possibility of our giving him — hopes, idealizations, 
hidden beauties, attractions of which not even he is conscious. 
But the place where we deposit all this, which we produce, but 
produce for him^ is the indistinct horizon of his personality, the 
interstitial realm, in which faith replaces knowledge. But it 
must be strongly emphasized that this is, by no means, only a 
matter of illusions and optimistic or amorous self-deceptions, 
but that portions even of the persons closest to us must be offered 
us in the form of indistinctness and unclarity, in order for their 
attractiveness to keep on the same high level. 

It is in this way that the majority of people replace the attrac- 
tion values, which the minority possess in the inexhaustibility 
of their inner life and growth. The mere fact of absolute knowl- 
edge, of a psychological having-exhausted, sobers us up, even 
without prioi? drunkenness; it paralyzes the vitality of relations 
and lets their continuation really appear pointless. This is the 
danger of complete and (in more than an external sense) shame- 
less abandon, to which the unlimited possibilities of intimate 
relations tempt us. These possibilities, in fact, are easily felt 
as a kind of duty — particularly where there exists no absolute 
certainty of one’s own feeling; and the fear of not giving the 
other enough leads to giving him too much. It is highly prob- 
able that many marriages founder on this lack of reciprocal 
discretion — discretion both in taking and in giving. They lapse 
into a trivial habituation without charm, into a matter-of- 
factness which has no longer any room for surprises. The fertile 
depth of relations suspects and honors something even more 
ultimate behind every ultimateness revealed; it daily challenges 
us to reconquer even secure possessions. But this depth is only 
the reward for that tenderness and self-discipline which, even in 
the most intimate relation that comprises the total individual, 
respects his inner private property, and allows the right to 
Question to be limited bv the riffht to secrecv. 

Chapter 3 



acteristic of all these combinations is that the secret of a given 
individual is acknowledged by another; that what is inten- 
tionally or unintentionally hidden is intentionally or uninten- 
tionally respected. The intention of hiding, however, takes on 
a much greater intensity when it clashes with the intention of 
revealing. In this situation emerges that purposive hiding and 
masking, that aggressive defensive, so to speak, against the third 
person, which alone is usually designated as secret. 

§ 1 . The Role of the Secret in Social Life 

The secret in this sense, the hiding of realities by negative 
or positive means, is one of man’s greatest achievements. In 
comparison with the childish stage in which every conception 
is expressed at once, and every undertaking is accessible to the 
eyes of all, the secret produces an immense enlargement of life: 
numerous contents of life cannot even emerge in the presence of 
full publicity. The secret offers, so to speak, the possibility of a 
second world alongside the manifest world; and the latter is 
decisively influenced by the former. 

Whether there is secrecy between two individuals or groups, 
and if so how much, is a question that characterizes every rela- 
tion between them. For even where one of the two does not 
notice the existence of a secret, the behavior of the concealer, and 
hence the whole relationship, is certainly modified by it.^ The 

3 In some cases, this hiding has a sociological consequence of a peculiar ethical 
paradoxicalness. For however destructive it often is for a relation between two 
if one of them has committed a fault against the other of which both are conscious, 
it can, on the contrary, be very useful for the relation if the guilty one alone knows 
of the fault. For, this causes in him a considerateness, a delicacy, a secret wish to 
make up for it, a yieldingness and selflessness, none of which would ever occur 
to him had he a completely untroubled conscience. 


The Role of the Secret in Social Life 331 

historical development of society is in many respects charac- 
terized by the fact that what at an earlier time was manifest, 
enters the protection of secrecy; and that, conversely, what once 
was secret, no longer needs such protection but reveals itself. 
This is comparable to that other evolution of the mind by which 
what originally was done consciously, sinks to the level of con- 
sciously mechanical routine, and, on the other hand, what at 
an earlier stage was unconscious and instinctive, rises to the 
clarity of consciousness. How this is distributed among the 
various formations of private and public life; how this evolution 
leads to ever more purposeful conditions inasmuch as, at the 
beginning, the range of secrecy is often extended much too far, 
in clumsy and undifferentiated fashion, and, on the other hand, 
the utility of secrecy is recognized only late with respect to many 
other items; how the quantum of secrecy is modified in its conse- 
quences by the importance or irrelevance of its contents — all 
this, even as mere question, illuminates the significance of the 
secret for the structure of human interaction. 

This significance must not be overlooked in view of the fact 
that the secret is often ethically negative; for, the secret is a 
general sociological form which stands in neutrality above the 
value functions of its contents. It may absorb the highest values 
— as, for instance, in the case of the noble individual whose 
subtle shame makes him conceal his best in order not to have 
it remunerated by eulogy and other rewards; for, otherwise, he 
would possess the remuneration, as it were, but no longer the 
value itself. On the other hand, although the secret has no 
immediate connection with evil, evil has an immediate connec- 
tion with secrecy: the immoral hides itself for obvious reasons 
even where its content meets with no social stigma as, for in- 
stance, in the case of certain sexual delinquencies. The intrin- 
sically isolating effect of immorality as such, irrespective of all 
direct social repulsion, is real and important beyond the many 
alleged entanglements of an ethical and social kind. Among 
other things, the secret is also the sociological expression of 
moral badness, although the facts contradict the classical phrase 
that nobody is bad enough to want, in addition, to appear bad. 
For often enough, spite and cynicism do not even let it come 
to a concealment of badness; in fact, they may exploit badness 

332 Secrecy 

in order to enhance the personality in the eyes of others — to 
the point where an individual sometimes brags about im- 
moralities he has not even committed. 

§ 2. The Fdscination of Secrecy 

The employment of secrecy as a sociological technique, as 
a form of action without which certain purposes — since we live 
in a social environment — can simply not be attained, is under- 
standable immediately. Not quite so evident are the attractions 
and values of the secret beyond its significance as a mere means — 
the peculiar attraction of formally secretive behavior irrespec- 
tive of its momentary content. In the first place, the strongly 
emphasized exclusion of all outsiders makes for a correspond- 
ingly strong feeling of possession. For many individuals, prop- 
erty does not fully gain its significance with mere ownership, 
but only with the consciousness that others must do without 
it. The basis for this, evidently, is the impressionability of our 
feelings through differences. Moreover, since the others are ex- 
cluded from the possession — particularly when it is very valu- 
able — the converse suggests itself psychologically, namely, that 
what is denied to many must have special value. 

Inner property of the most heterogeneous kinds, thus, attains 
a characteristic value accent through the form of secrecy, in 
which the contentual significance of what is concealed recedes, 
often enough, before the simple fact that others know nothing 
about it. Among children, pride and bragging are often based 
on a child’s being able to say to the other: “I know something 
that you don’t know” — and to such a degree, that this sentence 
is uttered as a formal means of boasting and of subordinating 
the others, even where it is made up and actually refers to no 
secret. This jealousy of the knowledge about facts hidden to 
others, is shown in all contexts, from the smallest to the largest. 
British parliamentary discussions were secret for a long time; 
and, as late as under George III, press communications about 
them were prosecuted as criminal offenses — explicitly, as viola- 
tions of parliamentary privileges. The secret gives one a position 
of exception; it operates as a purely socially determined attrac- 
tion. It is basically independent of the content it guards but, of 

The Fascination of Betrayal SSS 

course, is increasingly effective in the measure in which the 
exclusive possession is vast and significant. 

For this, a converse notion, analogous to the one mentioned 
above, is also responsible in part. For the average man, all 
superior persons and all superior achievements have something 
mysterious. All human being and doing, to be sure, flows from 
enigmatic forces. Yet among individuals of the same quality and 
value level, this does not yet make one a problem in the eyes of 
the other, particularly because the equality produces a certain 
direct understanding, not mediated by the intellect. Essential in- 
equality, on the contrary, produces no such understanding, and 
any particular difference makes the general enigmatic character 
come to the fore at once. (This is similar to one’s always living in 
the same landscape and thus never suspecting the problem of in- 
fluence by scenery — a problem which impresses us, however, as 
soon as we change our surroundings, and a different life-feeling 
calls our attention to the causative role of the scenic milieu 
generally.) From secrecy, which shades all that is profound and 
significant, glows the typical error according to which every- 
thing mysterious is something important and essential. Before 
the unknown, man’s natural impulse to idealize and his natural 
fearfulness cooperate toward the same goal: to intensify the 
unknown through imagination, and to pay attention to it with 
an emphasis that is not usually accorded to patent reality. 

§ 3. The Fascination of Betrayal 

Peculiarly enough, these attractions of secrecy are related 
to those of its logical opposite, betrayal — which, evidently, are 
no less sociological. The secret contains a tension that is dis- 
solved in the moment of its revelation. This moment constitutes 
the acme in the development of the secret; all of its charms are 
once more gathered in it and brought to a climax — just as the 
moment of dissipation lets one enjoy with extreme intensity the 
value of the object: the feeling of power which accompanies 
the possession of money becomes concentrated for the dissipator, 
most completely and sensuously, in the very instant in which he 
lets this power out of his hands. The secret, too, is full of the con- 
sciousness that it can be betrayed; that one holds the power of 

334 Secrecy 

surprises, turns of fate, joy, destruction — if only, perhaps, of 
self-destruction. For this reason, the secret is surrounded by the 
possibility and temptation of betrayal; and the external danger 
of being discovered is interwoven with the internal danger, 
which is like the fascination of an abyss, of giving oneself away. 
The secret puts a barrier between men but, at the same time, it 
creates the tempting challenge to break through it, by gossip or 
confession — and this challenge accompanies its psychology like 
a constant overtone. The sociological significance of the secret, 
therefore, has its practical extent, its mode of realization, only 
in the individual’s capacity or inclination to keep it to himself, 
in his resistance or weakness in the face of tempting betrayal. 
Out of the counterplay of these two interests, in concealing and 
revealing, spring nuances and fates of human interaction that 
permeate it in its entirety. In the light of our earlier stipulation, 
every human relation is characterized, among other things, by 
the amount of secrecy that is in and around it. In this respect, 
therefore, the further development of every relation is deter- 
mined by the ratio of persevering and yielding energies which 
are contained in the relation. The former rest on the practical 
interest in secrecy and its formal attraction. The latter are based 
on the impossibility of bearing the tension entailed by keeping 
a secret any longer, and on a feeling of superiority. Although 
this superiority lies in a latent form, so to speak, in secrecy itself, 
for our feelings it is fully actualized only at the moment of revela- 
tion or often, also, in the lust of confession, which may contain 
this feeling of power in the negative and perverted form of self- 
humiliation and contrition. 

§ 4 . Secrecy and Individualization 

All these elements which determine the sociological role of 
the secret are of an individual nature; but the measure in which 
the dispositions and complications of personalities form secrets 
depends, at the same time, on the social structure in which their 
lives are placed. The decisive point in this respect is that the 
secret is a first-rate element of individualization. It is this in a 
typical dual role: social conditions of strong personal differen- 
tiation permit and require secrecy in a high degree; and, con- 

Secrecy and Individualization 335 

versely, the secret embodies and intensifies such differentiation. 
In a small and narrow circle, the formation and preservation of 
secrets is made difficult even on technical grounds: everybody 
is too close to everybody else and his circumstances, and fre- 
quency and intimacy of contact involve too many temptations of 
revelation. But further, the secret is not even particularly 
needed, because this type of social formation usually levels its 
members, and the peculiarities of existence, activities, and pos- 
sessions whose conservation requires the form of secrecy, militate 
against this social form and its leveling. 

With the enlargement of the group, evidently, all this changes 
into its opposite. Here, as elsewhere, the specific traits of the 
large group are most clearly revealed by the conditions of a 
money economy. Ever since traffic in economic values has been 
carried on by means of money alone, an otherwise unattainable 
secrecy has become possible. Three characteristics of the mone- 
tary form of value are relevant here: its compressibility, which 
permits one to make somebody rich by slipping a check into his 
hand without anybody's noticing it; its abstractness and quality- 
lessness, through which transactions, acquisitions, and changes 
in ownership can be rendered hidden and unrecognizable in a 
way impossible where values are owned only in the form of 
extensive, unambiguously tangible objects; and finally, its effect- 
at-a-distance, which allows its investment in very remote and 
ever-changing values, and thus its complete withdrawal from 
the eyes of the immediate environment. These possibilities of 
dissimulation develop in the measure in which the money 
economy expands, and they are bound to show their dangers 
in economic action involving foreign moneys. They have led 
to a protective measure, namely, the public character of financial 
manipulations by joint-stock companies and governments. 

This suggests a somewhat more exact phrasing of the evolu- 
tionary formula touched upon above. According to it, it will be 
recalled, the secret is a form which constantly receives and re- 
leases contents: what originally was manifest becomes secret, and 
what once was hidden later sheds its concealment. One could, 
therefore, entertain the paradoxical idea that under otherwise 
identical circumstances, human collective life requires a certain 
measure of secrecy which merely changes its topics: while leaving 

336 Secrecy 

one of them, social life seizes upon another, and in all this alter- 
nation it preserves an unchanged quantity of secrecy. 

But one can find a somewhat more precisely determined con- 
tent for this general scheme. It seems as if, with growing cultural 
expediency, general affairs became ever more public, and indi- 
vidual affairs ever more secret. In less developed stages, as has 
already been noted, the individual and his conditions cannot, to 
the same extent, protect themselves against being looked into and 
meddled with as under the modern style of life, which has pro- 
duced an entirely new measure of reserve and discretion, espe- 
cially in large cities. In earlier times, functionaries of the public 
interests were customarily clothed with mystical authority, while, 
under larger and more mature conditions, they attain, through 
the extension of their sphere of domination, through the objec- 
tivity of their technique, and through their distance from every 
individual, a certainty and dignity by means of which they can 
permit their activities to be public. The former secrecy of public 
affairs, however, showed its inner inconsistency by at once creat- 
ing the countermovements of betrayal, on the one hand, and of 
espionage, on the other. Even as late as in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, governments kept anxiously silent about 
the amounts of state debts, the tax situation, and the size of the 
army. Ambassadors, therefore, often knew no better than to spy, 
to intercept letters, and to make people who “knew something” 
talk, domestics not excluded.^ In the nineteenth century, how- 
ever, publicity invaded the affairs of state to such an extent that, 
by now, governments officially publish facts without whose 
secrecy, prior to the nineteenth century, no regime seemed even 
possible. Politics, administration, and jurisdiction thus have 
lost their secrecy and inaccessibility in the same measure in which 
the individual has gained the possibility of ever more complete 
withdrawal, and in the same measure in which modern life has 

4 This countermovement also occurs in the opposite direction. It has been said 
about English court history that the real court cabal, the secret whisperings, the 
organizations of intrigue, did not occur under despotism, but only once the king 
had constitutional counselors, that is, when the government was, to this extent, an 
openly revealed system. Only then, the king began — and this is supposed to have 
been noticeable particularly since Edward II — to form, against these co-rulers who 
somehow were foisted upon him, an inofficial quasi -subterranean circle of advisers, 
which in itself, as well as through the efforts to enter it, created a chain of conceal- 
ments and conspiracies. 

Secrecy and Individualization 337 

developed, in the midst of metropolitan crowdedness, a tech- 
nique for making and keeping private matters secret, such as 
earlier could be attained only by means of spatial isolation. 

The answer to the question of how far this development 
may be considered expedient depends on social value axioms. 
Every democracy holds publicity to be an intrinsically desirable 
situation, on the fundamental premise that everybody should 
know the events and circumstances that concern him, since this 
is the condition without which he cannot contribute to decisions 
about them; and every shared knowledge itself contains the psy- 
chological challenge to shared action. It is a moot question 
whether this conclusion is quite valid. If, above all individualistic 
interests, there has grown an objective governing structure 
which embodies certain aspects of these interests, the formal 
autonomy of this structure may very well entitle it to function 
secretly, without thereby belying its “publicity*' in the sense 
of a material consideration of the interests of all. Thus, there is 
no logical connection which would entail the greater value of 
publicity. On the other hand, the general scheme of cultural 
differentiation is again shown here: what is public becomes ever 
more public, and what is private becomes ever more private. And 
this historical* development is the expression of a deeper, objec- 
tive significance: what is essentially public and what, in its con- 
tent, concerns all, also becomes ever more public externally, in 
its sociological form; and what, in its inner meaning, is autono- 
mous — the centripetal affairs of the individual — gains an ever 
more private character even in its sociological position, an ever 
more distinct possibility of remaining secret. 

I pointed out earlier that the secret also operates as an adorn- 
ing possession and value of the personality. This fact involves 
the contradiction that what recedes before the consciousness of 
the others and is hidden from them, is to be emphasized in their 
consciousness; that one should appear as a particularly note- 
worthy person precisely through what one conceals. But this 
contradiction proves, not only that the need for sociological at- 
tention may indeed resort to intrinsically contradictory means, 
but also that those against whom the means are actually directed 
in the given case, satisfy this need by bearing the cost of the 
superiority. They do so with a mixture of readiness and dislike; 

338 Secrecy 

but, in practice, they nevertheless supply the desired recogni- 
tion. It may thus be appropriate to show that, although appar- 
ently the sociological counter-pole of secrecy, adornment has, 
in fact, a societal significance with a structure analogous to that 
of secrecy itself. It is the nature and function of adornment to 
lead the eyes of others upon the adorned. Although, in this 
sense, it is the antagonist of secrecy, not even the secret (it will 
be remembered) is without the function of personal emphasis. 
And this, adornment, too, exercises, by mixing superiority to 
others with dependence upon them, and their good will with 
their envy. It does so in a manner which, as a sociological form 
of interaction, requires its special investigation. 

§ 5 . Adornment ® 

Man's desire to please his social environment contains two 
contradictory tendencies, in whose play and counterplay in 
general, the relations among individuals take their course. On 
the one hand, it contains kindness, a desire of the individual to 
give the other joy; but on the other hand, there is the wish for 
this joy and these “favors" to flow back to him, in the form of 
recognition and esteem, so that they be attributed to his person- 
ality as values. Indeed, this second need is so intensified that 
it militates against the altruism of wishing to please: by means 
of this pleasing, the individual desires to distinguish himself 
before others, and to be the object of an attention that others do 
not receive. This may even lead him to the point of wanting to 
be envied. Pleasing may thus become a means of the will to 
power: some individuals exhibit the strange contradiction that 
they need those above whom they elevate themselves by life 
and deed, for they build their own self-feeling upon the sub- 
ordinates' realization that they are subordinate. 

The meaning of adornment finds expression in peculiar 
elaborations of these motives, in which the external and internal 
aspects of their forms are interwoven. This meaning is to single 
the personality out, to emphasize it as outstanding in some sense 

6 In the original, this section, printed in smaller type, is called "'Exkurs iiber 
den Schmuck** (Note on Adornment). — ^According to the context, **Schmuch** is 
translated as “adornment,” “jewels,” or “jewelry.” — Tr. 

Adornment 339 

— but not by means of power manifestations, not by anything 
that externally compels the other, but only through the pleasure 
which is engendered in him and which, therefore, still has some 
voluntary element in it. One adorns oneself for oneself, but can 
do so only by adornment for others. It is one of the strangest 
sociological combinations that an act, which exclusively serves 
the emphasis and increased significance of the actor, neverthe- 
less attains this goal just as exclusively in the pleasure, in the 
visual delight it offers to others, and in their gratitude. For, 
even the envy of adornment only indicates the desire of the en- 
vious person to win like recognition and admiration for him- 
self; his envy proves how much he believes these values to be 
connected with the adornment. Adornment is the egoistic ele- 
ment as such: it singles out its wearer, whose self-feeling it 
embodies and increases at the cost of others (for, the same adorn- 
ment of all would no longer adorn the individual). But, at the 
same time, adornment is altruistic: its pleasure is designed for 
the others, since its owner can enjoy it only insofar as he mirrors 
himself in them; he renders the adornment valuable only 
through the reflection of this gift of his. Everywhere, aesthetic 
formation reveals that life orientations, which reality juxtaposes